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´╗┐Title: Hobson's Choice: A Lancashire Comedy in Four Acts
Author: Brighouse, Harold, 1882-1958
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hobson's Choice: A Lancashire Comedy in Four Acts" ***

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HOBSON'S CHOICE

A Lancashire Comedy in Four Acts

By Harold Brighouse



_Hobson's Choice_ was originally produced in America. Its first English
production took place on June 22, 1916, at the Apollo Theatre, London,
with the following cast:


   ALICE HOBSON   .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Miss Lydia Bilbrooke_.
   MAGGIE HOBSON  .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Miss Edyth Goodall_.
   VICKEY HOBSON  .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Miss Hilda Davies_.
   ALBERT PROSSER .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Mr. Reginald Fry_.
   HENRY HORATIO HOBSON .  .  .  . . . _Mr. Norman McKinnel_.
   MRS. HEPWORTH  .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Miss Dora Gregory_.
   TIMOTHY WADLOW (TUBBY).  .  . . . . _Mr. Sydney Paxton_.
   WILLIAM MOSSOP .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Mr. Joe Nightingale_.
   JIM HEELER  .  .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Mr. J. Cooke Beresford_.
   ADA FIGGINS .  .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Miss Mary Byron_.
   FRED BEENSTOCK .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Mr. Jefferson Gore_.
   DR. MACFARLANE .  .  .  .  .  . . . _Mr. J. Fisher White_.


_The_ SCENE _is Salford, Lancashire, and the period is 1880_.

ACT I. _Interior of_ HOBSON'S _Shop in Chapel Street_.

ACT II. _The same scene_.

ACT III. WILL MOSSOP'S _Shop_.

ACT IV. _Living-room of_ HOBSON'S _Shop_.



PUBLISHER'S NOTE.

Acknowledgements are made to Mr. William Armstrong, Director of the
Liverpool Repertory Company, for allowing his prompt copy to be used in
preparing this acting edition.

[Illustration] Red Walls, Brown oaken dado. T. gas bracket over counter.
Turkey red curtains half up window. No carpet. Small rug at door R.
Shoes on counter and showcases. Hanging laces. Advertisements. Boot
polishes. Brushes. Brown paper on counter. Clogs in rows under shelves
R. C. Black cane furniture and rush-bottomed. Heavy leather armchair.
Piece of rough leather on shelves.

The trap is eminently desirable. However, should the stage used have
no trap, the work-room may be supposed to be off-stage, with a door up
Right.



HOBSON'S CHOICE

ACT 1

_The_ SCENE _represents the interior of_ HOBSON'S _Boot Shop in Chapel
Street, Bedford. The shop windows and entrance from street occupy the
left side. Facing the audience is the counter, with exhibits of boots
and slippers, behind which the wall is fitted with racks containing boot
boxes. Cane chairs in front of counter. There is a desk down L. with a
chair. A door R. leads up to the house. In the centre of the stage is
a trap leading to the cellar where work is done. There are no elaborate
fittings. Gas brackets in the windows and walls. The business is
prosperous, but to prosper in Salford in 1880 you did not require the
elaborate accessories of a later day. A very important customer goes
for fitting into_ HOBSON'S _sitting-room. The rank and file use the
cane chairs in the shop, which is dingy but business-like. The
windows exhibit little stock, and amongst what there is clogs figure
prominently. Through the windows comes the bright light of noon._

Sitting behind the counter are_ HOBSON'S _two younger daughters,_ ALICE,
R., _who is twenty-three, and_ VICTORIA, L., _who is twenty-one, and
very pretty_. ALICE _is knitting and_ VICTORIA _is reading. They are in
black, with neat black aprons. The door_ R. _opens, and_ MAGGIE _enters.
She is_ HOBSON'S _eldest daughter, thirty_.

ALICE. Oh, it's you. I hoped it was father going out.

MAGGIE. It isn't. (_She crosses and takes her place at desk_ L.)

ALICE. He _is_ late this morning.

MAGGIE. He got up late. (_She busies herself with an account book_.)

VICKEY. (_reading_). Has he had breakfast yet, Maggie?

MAGGIE. Breakfast! With a Masons' meeting last night!

VICKEY. He'll need reviving.

ALICE. Then I wish he'd go and do it.

VICKEY. Are you expecting anyone, Alice?

ALICE. Yes, I am, and you know I am, and I'll thank you both to go when
he comes.

VICKEY. Well, I'll oblige you, Alice, if father's gone out first, only
you know I can't leave the counter till he goes.

(ALBERT PROSSER _enters from the street. He is twenty-six, nicely
dressed, as the son of an established solicitor would be. He crosses to_
R. _and raises his hat to _ALICE.)

ALBERT. Good morning, Miss Alice.

ALICE. Good morning, Mr. Prosser. (_She leans across counter_.) Father's
not gone out yet. He's late.

ALBERT. Oh! (_He turns to go, and is half-way to door, when MAGGIE
rises_.)

MAGGIE (_coming_ C.). What can we do for you, Mr. Prosser?

ALBERT (_stopping_). Well, I can't say that I came in to buy anything,
Miss Hobson.

MAGGIE. This is a shop, you know. We're not here to let people go out
without buying.

ALBERT. Well, I'll just have a pair of bootlaces, please. (_Moves
slightly to_ R.)

MAGGIE. What size do you take in boots?

ALBERT. Eights. I've got small feet. (_He simpers, then perceives that_
MAGGIE _is by no means smiling_.) Does that matter to the laces?

MAGGIE (_putting mat in front of arm-chair_ R. C.) It matters to the
boots. (_She pushes him slightly_.) Sit down, Mr. Prosser.

ALBERT (_sitting in arm-chair_ R. C.) Yes, but--

(MAGGIE _is on her knees and takes off his boot_.)

MAGGIE. It's time you had a new pair. These uppers are disgraceful for
a professional man to wear. Number eights from the third rack, Vickey,
please.

ALICE (_moving down a little_). Mr. Prosser didn't come in to buy boots,
Maggie.

(VICKEY _comes down to_ MAGGIE _with box which she opens_.)

MAGGIE. I wonder what does bring him in here so often!

(ALICE _moves back to behind counter_.)

ALBERT. I'm terrible hard on bootlaces, Miss Hobson.

(MAGGIE _puts a new boot on him and laces it_.)

MAGGIE. Do you get through a pair a day? You must be strong.

ALBERT. I keep a little stock of them. It's as well to be prepared for
accidents.

MAGGIE. And now you'll have boots to go with the laces, Mr. Prosser. How
does that feel?

ALBERT. Very comfortable.

MAGGIE. Try it standing up.

ALBERT (_trying and walking a few steps_). Yes, that fits all right.

MAGGIE. I'll put the other on.

ALBERT. Oh no, I really don't want to buy them.

MAGGIE (_pushing him_). Sit down, Mr. Prosser. You can't go through the
streets in odd boots.

(ALICE _comes down again_.)

ALBERT. What's the price of these?

MAGGIE. A pound.

ALBERT. A pound! I say--

MAGGIE. They're good boots, and you don't need to buy a pair of laces
to-day, because we give them in as discount. (VICKEY _goes back to
counter_.) Braid laces, that is. Of course, if you want leather ones,
you being so strong in the arm and breaking so many pairs, you can have
them, only it's tuppence more.

ALBERT. These--these will do.

MAGGIE. Very well, you'd better have the old pair mended and I'll send
them home to you with the bill. (_She has laced the second boot, rises,
and moves towards desk_ L., _throwing the boot box at_ VICKEY, _who
gives a little scream at the interruption of her reading_. ALBERT
_gasps_.)

ALBERT. Well, if anyone had told me I was coming in here to spend a
pound I'd have called him crazy.

MAGGIE. It's not wasted. Those boots will last. Good morning, Mr.
Prosser. (_She holds door open_.)

ALBERT. Good morning. (_He looks blankly at_ ALICE _and goes out_.)

ALICE. Maggie, we know you're a pushing sales-woman, but--

MAGGIE (_returning to_ R. _she picks up old boots and puts them on rack
up_ R.). It'll teach him to keep out of here a bit. He's too much time
on his hands.

ALICE. You know why he comes.

MAGGIE. I know it's time he paid a rent for coming. A pair of laces a
day's not half enough. Coming here to make sheep's eyes at you. I'm sick
of the sight of him. (_Crosses in front of counter to_ L.)

ALICE. It's all very well for an old maid like you to talk, but if
father won't have us go courting, where else can Albert meet me except
here when father's out?

MAGGIE. If he wants to marry you why doesn't he do it?

ALICE. Courting must come first.

MAGGIE. It needn't. (_She picks up a slipper on desk_ L.). See that
slipper with a fancy buckle on to make it pretty? Courting's like that,
my lass. All glitter and no use to nobody. (_She replaces slipper and
sits at her desk_.)

(HENRY HORATIO HOBSON _enters from the house. He is fifty-five,
successful, coarse, florid, and a parent of the period. His hat is on.
It is one of those felt hats which are half-way to tall hats in shape.
He has a heavy gold chain and masonic emblems on it. His clothes are
bought to wear_.)

HOBSON. Maggie, I'm just going out for a quarter of an hour. (_Moves
over to doors_ L.)

MAGGIE. Yes, father. Don't be late for dinner. There's liver.

HOBSON. It's an hour off dinner-time. (_Going_.)

MAGGIE. So that, if you stay more than an hour in the Moonraker's Inn,
you'll be late for it.

HOBSON. "Moonraker's?" Who said--? (_Turning_.)

VICKEY. If your dinner's ruined, it'll be your own fault.

HOBSON. Well, I'll be eternally--

ALICE. Don't swear, father.

HOBSON (_putting hat on counter_). No. I'll sit down instead. (_He moves
to_ R. C. _and sits in arm-chair_ R. C. _facing them_.) Listen to me,
you three. I've come to conclusions about you. And I won't have it. Do
you hear that? Interfering with my goings out and comings in. The idea!
I've a mind to take measures with the lot of you.

MAGGIE. I expect Mr. Heeler's waiting for you in "Moonraker's," father.

HOBSON. He can go on waiting. At present, I'm addressing a few remarks
to the rebellious females of this house, and what I say will be listened
to and heeded. I've noticed it coming on ever since your mother died.
There's been a gradual increase of uppishness towards me.

VICKEY. Father, you'd have more time to talk after we've closed
to-night. (_She is anxious to resume her reading_.)

HOBSON. I'm talking now, and you're listening. Providence has decreed
that you should lack a mother's hand at the time when single girls grow
bumptious and must have somebody to rule. But I'll tell you this, you'll
none rule me.

VICKEY. I'm sure I'm not bumptious, father.

HOBSON. Yes, you are. You're pretty, but you're bumptious, and I hate
bumptiousness like I hate a lawyer.

ALICE. If we take trouble to feed you it's not bumptious to ask you not
to be late for your food.

VICKEY. Give and take, father.

HOBSON. I give and you take, and it's going to end.

MAGGIE. How much a week do you give us?

HOBSON. That's neither here nor there. (_Rises and moves to doors_ L.)
At moment I'm on uppishness, and I'm warning you your conduct towards
your parent's got to change. (_Turns to the counter_.) But that's not
all. That's private conduct, and now I pass to broader aspects and I
speak of public conduct. I've looked upon my household as they go about
the streets, and I've been disgusted. The fair name and fame of Hobson
have been outraged by members of Hobson's family, and uppishness has
done it.

VICKEY. I don't know what you're talking about.

HOBSON. Vickey, you're pretty, but you can lie like a gas-meter. Who had
new dresses on last week?

ALICE. I suppose you mean Vickey and me!

HOBSON. I do.

VICKEY. We shall dress as we like, father, and you can save your breath.

HOBSON. I'm not stopping in from my business appointment for the purpose
of saving my breath.

VICKEY. You like to see me in nice clothes.

HOBSON. I do. I like to see my daughters nice. (_Crosses_ R.) That's
why I pay Mr. Tudsbury, the draper, 10 pounds a year a head to dress you
proper. It pleases the eye and it's good for trade. But, I'll tell you,
if some women could see themselves as men see them, they'd have a shock,
and I'll have words with Tudsbury an' all, for letting you dress up like
guys. (_Moves_ L.) I saw you and Alice out of the "Moonraker's" parlour
on Thursday night and my friend Sam Minns--(_Turns_.)

ALICE. A publican.

HOBSON. Aye, a publican. As honest a man as God Almighty ever set behind
a bar, my ladies. My friend, Sam Minns, asked me who you were. And well
he might. You were going down Chapel Street with a hump added to nature
behind you.

VICKEY (_scandalized_). Father!

HOBSON. The hump was wagging, and you put your feet on pavement as if
you'd got chilblains--aye, stiff neck above and weak knees below. It's
immodest!

ALICE. It is not immodest, father. It's the fashion to wear bustles.

HOBSON. Then to hell with the fashion.

MAGGIE. Father, you are not in the "Moonraker's" now.

VICKEY. You should open your eyes to what other ladies wear. (_Rises_.)

HOBSON. If what I saw on you is any guide, I should do nowt of kind. I'm
a decent-minded man. I'm Hobson. I'm British middle class and proud of
it. I stand for common sense and sincerity. You're affected, which is
bad sense and insincerity. You've overstepped nice dressing and you've
tried grand dressing--(VICKEY _sits_)--which is the occupation of fools
and such as have no brains. You forget the majesty of trade and the
unparalleled virtues of the British Constitution which are all based
on the sanity of the middle classes, combined with the diligence of the
working-classes. You're losing balance, and you're putting the things
which don't matter in front of the things which do, and if you mean
to be a factor in the world in Lancashire or a factor in the house of
Hobson, you'll become sane.

VICKEY. Do you want us to dress like mill girls?

HOBSON. No. Nor like French Madams, neither. It's un-English, I say.

ALICE. We shall continue to dress fashionably, father.

HOBSON. Then I've a choice for you two. Vickey, you I'm talking to, and
Alice. You'll become sane if you're going on living here. You'll control
this uppishness that's growing on you. And if you don't, you'll get out
of this, and exercise your gifts on some one else than me. You don't
know when you're well off. But you'll learn it when I'm done with you.
I'll choose a pair of husbands for you, my girls. That's what I'll do.

ALICE. Can't we choose husbands for ourselves?

HOBSON. I've been telling you for the last five minutes you're not even
fit to choose dresses for yourselves.

MAGGIE. You're talking a lot to Vickey and Alice, father. Where do I
come in?

HOBSON. You? (_Turning on her, astonished_.)

MAGGIE. If you're dealing husbands round, don't I get one?

HOBSON. Well, that's a good one! (_Laughs_.) You with a husband! (_Down
in front of desk_.)

MAGGIE. Why not?

HOBSON. Why not? I thought you'd sense enough to know. But if you want
the brutal truth, you're past the marrying age. You're a proper old
maid, Maggie, if ever there was one.

MAGGIE. I'm thirty.

HOBSON (_facing her_). Aye, thirty and shelved. Well, all the women
can't get husbands. But you others, now. I've told you. I'll have less
uppishness from you or else I'll shove you off my hands on to some other
men. You can just choose which way you like. (_He picks up hat and makes
for door_.)

MAGGIE. One o'clock dinner, father.

HOBSON. See here, Maggie,--(_back again down to in front of desk_)--I
set the hours at this house. It's one o'clock dinner because I say it
is, and not because you do.

MAGGIE. Yes, father.

HOBSON. So long as that's clear I'll go. (_He is by door_.) Oh no, I
won't. Mrs. Hepworth's getting out of her carriage.

(_He puts hat on counter again_. MAGGIE _rises and opens door. Enter_
MRS. HEPWORTH, _an old lady with a curt manner and good clothes_.)

Good morning, Mrs. Hepworth. What a lovely day. (_He crosses_ R. _and
places chair_.)

MRS. HEPWORTH (_sitting in arm-chair_ R. C.). Morning, Hobson. (_She
raises her skirt_.) I've come about those boots you sent me home.

HOBSON (_kneeling on_ MRS. HEPWORTH'S R., _and fondling foot_. MAGGIE
_is_ C.). Yes, Mrs. Hepworth. They look very nice.

MRS. HEPWORTH. Get up, Hobson. (_He scrambles up, controlling his
feelings_.) You look ridiculous on the floor. Who made these boots?

HOBSON. We did. Our own make.

MRS. HEPWORTH. Will you answer a plain question? Who made these boots?

HOBSON. They were made on the premises.

MRS. HEPWORTH (_to_ MAGGIE). Young woman, you seemed to have some sense
when you served me. Can you answer me?

MAGGIE. I think so, but I'll make sure for you, Mrs. Hepworth. (_She
opens trap and calls_.) Tubby!

HOBSON (_down_ R.). You wish to see the identical workman, madam?

MRS. HEPWORTH. I said so.

HOBSON. I am responsible for all work turned out here.

MRS. HEPWORTH. I never said you weren't.

(TUBBY WADLOW _comes up trap. A white-haired little man with thin legs
and a paunch, in dingy clothes with no collar and a coloured cotton
shirt. He has no coat on_.)

TUBBY. Yes, Miss Maggie? (_He stands half out of trap, not coming right
up_.)

MRS. HEPWORTH. Man, did you make these boots? (_She rises and advances
one pace towards him_.)

TUBBY. No, ma'am.

MRS. HEPWORTH. Then who did? Am I to question every soul in the place
before I find out? (_Looking round_.)

TUBBY. They're Willie's making, those.

MRS. HEPWORTH. Then tell Willie I want him.

TUBBY. Certainly, ma'am. (_He goes down trap and calls_ "Willie!")

MRS. HEPWORTH. Who's Willie?

HOBSON. Name of Mossop, madam. But if there is anything wrong I assure
you I'm capable of making the man suffer for it. I'll--

(WILLIE MOSSOP _comes up trap. He is a lanky fellow, about thirty, not
naturally stupid but stunted mentally by a brutalized childhood. He is a
raw material of a charming man, but, at present, it requires a very keen
eye to detect his potentialities. His clothes are an even poorer edition
of_ TUBBY'S. _He comes half-way up trap_.)

MRS. HEPWORTH (_standing_ R. _of trap_). Are you Mossop?

WILLIE. Yes, mum.

MRS. HEPWORTH. You made these boots?

WILLIE (_peering at them_). Yes, I made them last week.

MRS. HEPWORTH. Take that.

(WILLIE, _bending down, rather expects "that" to be a blow. Then he
raises his head and finds she is holding out a visiting card. He takes
it_.)

See what's on it?

WILLIE (_bending over the card_). Writing?

MRS. HEPWORTH. Read it.

WILLIE. I'm trying. (_His lips move as he tries to spell it out_.)

MRS. HEPWORTH. Bless the man. Can't you read?

WILLIE. I do a bit. Only it's such funny print.

MRS. HEPWORTH. It's the usual italics of a visiting card, my man. Now
listen to me. I heard about this shop, and what I heard brought me here
for these boots. I'm particular about what I put on my feet.

HOBSON (_moving slightly towards her_). I assure you it shall not occur
again, Mrs. Hepworth.

MRS. HEPWORTH. What shan't?

HOBSON (_crestfallen_). I--I don't know.

MRS. HEPWORTH. Then hold your tongue. Mossop, I've tried every shop in
Manchester, and these are the best-made pair of boots I've ever had.
Now, you'll make my boots in future. You hear that, Hobson?

(MAGGIE, _down_ L. C., _is taking it all in_.)

HOBSON. Yes, madam, of course he shall.

MRS. HEPWORTH. You'll keep that card, Mossop, and you won't dare leave
here to go to another shop without letting me know where you are.

HOBSON. Oh, he won't make a change.

MRS. HEPWORTH. How do you know? The man's a treasure, and I expect you
underpay him.

HOBSON. That'll do, Willie. You can go.

WILLIE. Yes, sir.

(_He dives down trap_. MAGGIE _closes it_.)

MRS. HEPWORTH. He's like a rabbit.

MAGGIE. Can I take your order for another pair of boots, Mrs. Hepworth?

MRS. HEPWORTH. Not yet, young woman. But I shall send my daughters here.
And, mind you, that man's to make the boots. (_She crosses_ L.)

MAGGIE. (_Up at doors and opening them_.) Certainly, Mrs. Hepworth.

MRS. HEPWORTH. Good morning.

HOBSON. Good morning, Mrs. Hepworth. Very glad to have the honour of
serving you, madam. (_Following her up_.)

(_She goes out_.)

(_Angry_.) I wish some people would mind their own business. What does
she want to praise a workman to his face for? (_Moves down_ L. _and then
to_ C.)

MAGGIE. I suppose he deserved it.

HOBSON. Deserved be blowed! Making them uppish. That's what it is. Last
time she puts her foot in my shop, I give you my word.

MAGGIE. Don't be silly, father.

HOBSON. I'll show her. Thinks she owns the earth because she lives at
Hope Hall.

(_Enter from street_ JIM HEELER, _who is a grocer, and_ HOBSON'S _boon
companion_.)

JIM (_looking down street as he enters_). That's a bit of a startler.

HOBSON (_swinging round_). Eh? Oh, morning, Jim.

JIM. You're doing a good class trade if the carriage folk come to you,
Hobson. (_Moves down_ L. C.)

HOBSON. What?

JIM. Wasn't that Mrs. Hepworth?

HOBSON. Oh yes. Mrs. Hepworth's an old and valued customer of mine.

JIM. It's funny you deal with Hope Hall and never mentioned it.

HOBSON. Why, I've made boots for her and all her circle for... how long,
Maggie? Oh, I dunno.

JIM. You kept it dark. Well, aren't you coming round yonder? (_Moving
up_ L.)

HOBSON (_reaching for his hat_). Yes. That is, no.

JIM. Are you ill?

HOBSON. No. Get away, you girls. I'll look after the shop. I want to
talk to Mr. Heeler.

JIM. Well, can't you talk in the "Moonraker's"!

(_The girls go out_ R. _to house_, MAGGIE _last_.)

HOBSON. Yes, with Sam Minns, and Denton and Tudsbury there.

JIM. It's private, then. What's the trouble, Henry?

(HOBSON _waves_ JIM _into arm-chair_ R. C. _and sits in front of
counter_.)

HOBSON. They're the trouble. (_Indicates door to house_.) Do your
daughters worry you, Jim?

JIM. Nay,--(_sits_ R. C.)--they mostly do as I bid them, and the missus
does the leathering if they don't.

HOBSON. Ah, Jim, a wife's a handy thing, and you don't know it proper
till she's taken from you. I felt grateful for the quiet when my Mary
fell on rest, but I can see my mistake now. I used to think I was hard
put to it to fend her off when she wanted summat out of me, but the
dominion of one woman is Paradise to the dominion of three.

JIM. It sounds a sad case, Henry.

HOBSON. I'm a talkative man by nature, Jim. You know that.

JIM. You're an orator, Henry. I doubt John Bright himself is better
gifted of the gab than you.

HOBSON. Nay, that's putting it a bit too strong. A good case needs no
flattery.

JIM. Well, you're the best debater in the "Moonraker's" parlour.

HOBSON. And that's no more than truth. Yes, Jim, in the estimation of
my fellow men, I give forth words of weight. In the eyes of my daughters
I'm a windbag. (_Rises and moves down_ L.).

JIM. Nay. Never!

HOBSON. I am. (_Turns_.) They scorn my wisdom, Jim. They answer back.
I'm landed in a hole--a great and undignified hole. My own daughters
have got the upper hand of me.

JIM. Women are worse than men for getting above themselves.

HOBSON. A woman's foolishness begins where man's leaves off.

JIM. They want a firm hand, Henry.

HOBSON. I've lifted up my voice and roared at them.

JIM. Beware of roaring at women, Henry. Roaring is mainly hollow sound.
It's like trying to defeat an army with banging drums instead of cold
steel. And it's steel in a man's character that subdues the women.

HOBSON. I've tried all ways, and I'm fair moithered. I dunno what to do.
(_Scratches his head_.)

JIM. Then you quit roaring at 'em and get 'em wed. (_Rises_.)

HOBSON. I've thought of that. Trouble is to find the men.

JIM. Men's common enough. Are you looking for angels in breeches?

HOBSON. I'd like my daughters to wed temperance young men, Jim.

JIM. You keep your ambitions within reasonable limits, Henry. You've
three daughters to find husbands for.

HOBSON. Two, Jim, two.

JIM. Two?

HOBSON. Vickey and Alice are mostly window dressing in the shop. But
Maggie's too useful to part with. And she's a bit on the ripe side for
marrying, is our Maggie.

JIM. I've seen 'em do it at double her age. Still, leaving her out,
you've two.

HOBSON. One'll do for a start, Jim. (_Crosses to_ R.) It's a thing I've
noticed about wenches. Get one wedding in a family and it goes through
the lot like measles. (_Moves round chair to up_ R.)

JIM. Well, you want a man, and you want him temperance. It'll cost you a
bit, you know. (_Sits in chair below_ L. _side of counter_.)

HOBSON (_going to him_). Eh? Oh, I'll get my hand down for the wedding
all right.

JIM. A warm man like you 'ull have to do more than that. There's things
called settlements.

HOBSON. Settlements?

JIM. Aye. You've to bait your hook to catch fish, Henry.

HOBSON. Then I'll none go fishing. (_Sits_.)

JIM. But you said--

HOBSON. I've changed my mind. I'd a fancy for a bit of peace, but
there's luxuries a man can buy too dear. Settlements indeed!

JIM. I had a man in mind.

HOBSON. You keep him there, Jim. I'll rub along and chance it.
Settlements indeed!

JIM. You save their keep.

HOBSON. They work for that. And they're none of them big eaters.

JIM. And their wages.

HOBSON. Wages? Do you think I pay wages to my own daughters? (_Rises and
goes to desk_ L.) I'm not a fool.

JIM. Then it's all off? (_Rises_.)

HOBSON (_turns_). From the moment that you breathed the word
"settlements" it was dead off, Jim. Let's go to the "Moonraker's" and
forget there's such a thing as women in the world. (_He takes up hat and
rings bell on counter_.) Shop! Shop!

(MAGGIE _enters from_ R.)

I'm going out, Maggie.

MAGGIE (_She remains by door_). Dinner's at one, remember.

HOBSON. Dinner will be when I come in for it. I'm master here. (_Moves
to go_.)

MAGGIE. Yes, father. One o'clock.

HOBSON (_disgusted_.) Come along, Jim.

(JIM _and_ HOBSON _go out to street_. MAGGIE _turns to speak inside_ R.
_door_.) MAGGIE. Dinner at half-past one, girls. We'll give him half an
hour. (_She closes door, turns arm-chair facing C. and moves to trap,
which she raises_.) Willie, come here.

(_In a moment_ WILLIE _appears, and stops half-way up_.)

WILLIE. Yes, Miss Maggie?

MAGGIE (L. _of trap_.) Come up, and put the trap down, I want to talk to
you.

(_He comes, reluctantly_.)

WILLIE. We're very busy in the cellar.

(MAGGIE _points to trap. He closes it_.)

MAGGIE. Show me your hands, Willie.

WILLIE. They're dirty. (_He holds them out hesitatingly_.)

MAGGIE. Yes, they're dirty, but they're clever. They can shape the
leather like no other man's that ever came into the shop. Who taught
you, Willie? (_She retains his hands_.)

WILLIE. Why, Miss Maggie, I learnt my trade here.

MAGGIE. Hobson's never taught you to make boots the way you do.

WILLIE. I've had no other teacher.

MAGGIE (_dropping his hands_.) And needed none. You're a natural born
genius at making boots. It's a pity you're a natural fool at all else.

WILLIE. I'm not much good at owt but leather, and that's a fact.

MAGGIE. When are you going to leave Hobson's?

WILLIE. Leave Hobson's? I--I thought I gave satisfaction.

MAGGIE. Don't you want to leave?

WILLIE. Not me. I've been at Hobson's all my life, and I'm not for
leaving till I'm made.

MAGGIE. I said you were a fool.

WILLIE. Then I'm a loyal fool.

MAGGIE. Don't you want to get on, Will Mossop? You heard what Mrs.
Hepworth said. You know the wages you get and you know the wages a
bootmaker like you could get in one of the big shops in Manchester.

WILLIE. Nay, I'd be feared to go in them fine places.

MAGGIE. What keeps you here? Is it the--the people?

WILLIE. I dunno what it is. I'm used to being here.

MAGGIE. Do you know what keeps this business on its legs? Two things:
one's the good boots you make that sell themselves, the other's the bad
boots other people make and I sell. We're a pair, Will Mossop.

WILLIE. You're a wonder in the shop, Miss Maggie.

MAGGIE. And you're a marvel in the workshop. Well?

WILLIE. Well, what?

MAGGIE. It seems to me to point one way.

WILLIE. What way is that?

MAGGIE. You're leaving me to do the work, my lad.

WILLIE. I'll be getting back to my stool, Miss Maggie. (_Moves to
trap_.)

MAGGIE (_stopping him_). You'll go back when I've done with you. I've
watched you for a long time and everything I've seen, I've liked. I
think you'll do for me.

WILLIE. What way, Miss Maggie?

MAGGIE. Will Mossop, you're my man. Six months I've counted on you and
it's got to come out some time.

WILLIE. But I never--

MAGGIE. I know you never, or it 'ud not be left to me to do the job like
this.

WILLIE. I'll--I'll sit down. (_He sits in arm-chair, mopping his brow_.)
I'm feeling queer-like. What dost want me for?

MAGGIE. To invest in. You're a business idea in the shape of a man.

WILLIE. I've got no head for business at all.

MAGGIE. But I have. My brain and your hands 'ull make a working
partnership.

WILLIE (_getting up, relieved_). Partnership! Oh, that's a different
thing. I thought you were axing me to wed you. (_Moves up stage_.)

MAGGIE. I am.

WILLIE (_sitting in front of counter_). Well, by gum! And you the
master's daughter.

MAGGIE. Maybe that's why, Will Mossop. (_Moving up stage_.) Maybe I've
had enough of father, and you're as different from him as any man I
know. (_Sits_ L. _of him_.)

WILLIE. It's a bit awkward-like.

MAGGIE. And you don't help me any, lad. What's awkward about it?

WILLIE. You talking to me like this.

MAGGIE. I'll tell you something, Will. It's a poor sort of woman who'll
stay lazy when she sees her best chance slipping from her. A Salford
life's too near the bone to lose things through the fear of speaking
out.

WILLIE. I'm your best chance?

MAGGIE. You are that, Will.

WILLIE. Well, by gum! (_Rises_.) I never thought of this.

MAGGIE. Think of it now.

WILLIE. I am doing. Only the blow's a bit too sudden to think very
clear. I've a great respect for you, Miss Maggie. You're a shapely body,
and you're a masterpiece at selling in the shop, but when it comes to
marrying, I'm bound to tell you that I'm none in love with you.

MAGGIE. Wait till you're asked. (_Rises_.) I want your hand in mine and
your word for it that you'll go through life with me for the best we can
get out of it.

WILLIE. We'd not get much without there's love between us, lass.

MAGGIE. I've got the love all right.

WILLIE. Well, I've not, and that's honest.

MAGGIE. We'll get along without.

WILLIE. You're desperate set on this. It's a puzzle to me all ways. What
'ud your father say?

MAGGIE. He'll say a lot, and he can say it. It'll make no difference to
me.

WILLIE. Much better not upset him. It's not worth while.

MAGGIE. I'm judge of that. You're going to wed me, Will.

WILLIE. Oh, nay, I'm not. Really I can't do that, Maggie. I can see that
I'm disturbing your arrangements like, but I'll be obliged if you'll put
this notion from you.

MAGGIE. When I make arrangements, my lad, they're not made for
upsetting.

WILLIE. What makes it so desperate awkward is that I'm tokened.

MAGGIE. You're what?

WILLIE. I'm tokened to Ada Figgins.

MAGGIE. Then you'll get loose and quick. Who's Ada Figgins? Do I know
her? (_Moves_ L. _and turns_.)

WILLIE. I'm the lodger at her mother's.

MAGGIE. The scheming hussy. It's not that sandy gill who brings your
dinner? (_Moves_ C.)

WILLIE. She's golden-haired is Ada. Aye, she'll be here soon.

MAGGIE. And so shall I. I'll talk to Ada. I've seen her and I know the
breed. Ada's the helpless sort. (_Turns_ L.)

WILLIE. She needs protecting.

MAGGIE. That's how she got you, was it? (_Turns_ C.) Yes, I can see her
clinging round your neck until you fancied you were strong. But I'll
tell you this, my lad, it's a desperate poor kind of a woman that'll
look for protection to the likes of you.

WILLIE. Ada does.

MAGGIE. And that gives me the weight of her. She's born to meekness, Ada
is. You wed her, and you'll be an eighteen shilling a week bootmaker all
the days of your life. You'll be a slave, and a contented slave.

WILLIE. I'm not ambitious that I know of.

MAGGIE. No. But you're going to be. I'll see to that. I've got my work
cut out, but there's the makings of a man about you.

WILLIE. I wish you'd leave me alone. (_Sits_ R.)

MAGGIE. So does the fly when the spider catches him. You're my man,
Willie Mossop. (_Moves to desk_.)

WILLIE. Aye, so you say. Ada would tell another story, though.

(ADA FIGGINS _enters from street. She is not ridiculous, but a weak,
poor-blooded, poor-spirited girl of twenty, in clogs and shawl, with_
WILLIE'S _dinner in a basin carried in a blue handkerchief. She crosses
to him and gives him the basin_.)

ADA (C.). There's your dinner, Will.

WILLIE. Thank you, Ada. (_Rises_.)

(_She turns to go, and finds_ MAGGIE _in her way_.)

MAGGIE. I want a word with you. You're treading on my foot, young woman.

ADA. Me, Miss Hobson? (_She looks stupidly at_ MAGGIE'S _feet_.)

MAGGIE. What's this with you and him?

ADA (_gushing_). Oh, Miss 'Obson, it is good of you to take notice like
that.

WILLIE. Ada, she--

MAGGIE. You hold your hush. This is for me and her to settle. Take a
fair look at him, Ada.

ADA. At Will?

MAGGIE (_nodding_). Not much for two women to fall out over, is there?

ADA. Maybe he's not so much to look at, but you should hear him play.

MAGGIE. Play? Are you a musician, Will?

WILLIE. I play the Jew's harp.

MAGGIE. That's what you see in him, is it? A gawky fellow that plays the
Jew's harp?

ADA. I see the lad I love, Miss 'Obson.

MAGGIE. It's a funny thing, but I can say the same.

ADA. You!

WILLIE. That's what I've been trying to tell you, Ada, and--and, by gum,
she'll have me from you if you don't be careful.

MAGGIE. So we're quits so far, Ada.

ADA. You'll pardon me. You've spoke too late. Will and me's tokened.
(_She takes his arm_.)

MAGGIE. That's the past. It's the future that I'm looking to. What's
your idea for that?

ADA. You mind your own business, Miss 'Obson. Will Mossop's no concern
of thine.

WILLIE. That's what I try to tell her myself, only she will have it it's
no use.

MAGGIE. Not an atom. I've asked for your idea of Willie's future. If
it's a likelier one than mine, I'll give you best and you can have the
lad.

ADA. I'm trusting him to make the future right.

MAGGIE. It's as bad as I thought it was. Willie, you wed me.

ADA (_weakly_). It's daylight robbery. (_Moves slightly_ L.)

WILLIE. Aren't you going to put up a better fight for me than that, Ada?
You're fair giving me to her.

MAGGIE. Will Mossop, you take your orders from me in this shop. I've
told you you'll wed me.

WILLIE. Seems like there's no escape. (_Sits in arm-chair_.)

ADA (_angry_). Wait while I get you to home, my lad. I'll set my mother
on to you.

MAGGIE. Oh, so it's her mother made this match!

WILLIE. She had above a bit to do with it.

MAGGIE. I've got no mother, Will.

WILLIE. You need none, neither.

MAGGIE. Well, can I sell you a pair of clogs, Miss Figgins?

ADA. No. Nor anything else.

MAGGIE. Then you've no business here, have you? (_Moves up to doors and
opens them_.)

ADA (_going to him_). Will, are you going to see me ordered out?

WILLIE. It's her shop, Ada.

ADA. You mean I'm to go like this?

WILLIE. She means it.

ADA. It's cruel hard. (_Moves towards doors_.)

MAGGIE. When it comes to a parting, it's best to part sudden and no
whimpering about it.

ADA. I'm not whimpering, and I'm not parting, neither. But he'll whimper
to-night when my mother sets about him. (_Slight movement back to him_.)

MAGGIE. That'll do.

ADA (_in almost a scream_). Will Mossop, I'm telling you, you'll come
home to-night to a thick ear.

(_She goes_.)

WILLIE (_rising_). I'd really rather wed Ada, Maggie, if it's all same
to you.

MAGGIE. Why? Because of her mother?

WILLIE. She's a terrible rough side to her tongue, has Mrs. Figgins.

MAGGIE. Are you afraid of her?

WILLIE (_hesitates, then says_). Yes.

MAGGIE. You needn't be.

WILLIE. Yes, but you don't know her. She'll jaw me till I'm black in the
face when I go home to-night.

MAGGIE. You won't go home to-night.

WILLIE. Not go?

MAGGIE. You've done with lodging there. You'll go to Tubby Wadlow's
when you knock off work and Tubby'll go round to Mrs. Figgins for your
things.

WILLIE. And I'm not to go back there never no more?

MAGGIE. No.

WILLIE. It's like an 'appy dream. Eh, Maggie, you do manage things.

(_He opens the trap_.)

MAGGIE. And while Tubby's there you can go round and see about putting
the banns up for us two.

WILLIE. Banns! Oh, but I'm hardly used to the idea yet. (_A step down_.)

MAGGIE. You'll have three weeks to get used to it in. Now you can kiss
me, Will.

WILLIE. That's forcing things a bit, and all. It's like saying I agree
to everything, a kiss is.

MAGGIE. Yes.

WILLIE. And I don't agree yet. I'm--

MAGGIE. Come along.

(ALICE, _then_ VICKEY _enter_ R.)

Do what I tell you, Will.

WILLIE. Now? With them here?

MAGGIE. Yes.

WILLIE (_pause_). I couldn't. (_He dives for trap, runs down, and closes
it_.)

ALICE. What's the matter with Willie?

MAGGIE. He's a bit upset because I've told him he's to marry me. Is
dinner cooking nicely? (_To desk_, L.)

ALICE. You're going to marry Willie Mossop! Willie Mossop!

VICKEY. You've kept it quiet, Maggie.

MAGGIE. You know about it pretty near as soon as Willie does himself.

VICKEY. Well, I don't know!

ALICE. I know, and if you're afraid to speak your thoughts, I'm not.
Look here, Maggie--(_moving to_ L. C.),--what you do touches us,
and you're mistaken if you think I'll own Willie Mossop for my
brother-in-law.

MAGGIE. Is there supposed to be some disgrace in him?

ALICE. You ask father if there's disgrace. And look at me. I'd hopes of
Albert Prosser till this happened.

MAGGIE. You'll marry Albert Prosser when he's able, and that'll be when
ho starts spending less on laundry bills and hair cream. (_Goes to_ R.)

(HOBSON _enters from the street_.)

HOBSON. Well, what about that dinner? (_Comes_ C.)

(_The positions are_ MAGGIE R., VICKEY _up_ R. C., HOBSON _up_ C., ALICE
L. C.) MAGGIE. It'll be ready in ten minutes.

HOBSON. You said one o'clock.

MAGGIE. Yes, father. One for half-past. If you'll wash your hands, it'll
be ready as soon as you are.

HOBSON. I won't wash my hands. I don't hold with such finicking ways,
and well you know it. (_Sits in front of counter_.)

VICKEY. Father, have you heard the news about our Maggie? (_Down_ R. C.)

HOBSON. News? There is no news. It's the same old tale. Uppishness.
You'd keep a starving man from the meat he earns in the sweat of his
brow, would you? I'll put you in your places. I'll--(_Rises_.)

MAGGIE. Don't lose your temper, father. You'll maybe need it soon when
Vickey speaks. (_Moves down_ R.)

HOBSON. What's Vickey been doing?

VICKEY. Nothing. It's about Will Mossop, father.

HOBSON. Will?

ALICE. Yes. What's your opinion of Will?

HOBSON. A decent lad. I've nowt against him that I know of.

ALICE. Would you like him in the family?

HOBSON. Whose family? (_Coming down_ C.)

VICKEY. Yours.

MAGGIE. I'm going to marry Willie, father. That's what all the fuss is
about.

HOBSON. Marry--you--Mossop? (_Moves to her_.)

MAGGIE. You thought me past the marrying age. I'm not. That's all.

HOBSON. Didn't you hear me say I'd do the choosing when it came to a
question of husbands?

MAGGIE. You said I was too old to get a husband.

HOBSON. You are. You all are.

VICKEY. Father!

HOBSON. (_crossing to_ C.) And if you're not, it makes no matter. I'll
have no husbands here.

(VICKEY R., ALICE L. _of_ HOBSON.)

ALICE. But you said--

HOBSON. I've changed my mind. I've learnt some things since then.
There's a lot too much expected of a father nowadays. There'll be no
weddings here.

ALICE. Oh, father!

HOBSON (_taking them down_). Go and get my dinner served and talk less.
Go on now. I'm not in right temper to be crossed.

(_He drives_ ALICE _and_ VICKEY _before him. They go out protesting
loudly. But MAGGIE stands in his way as he follows and she closes the
door. She looks at him from the stair_.)

MAGGIE. You and I 'ull be straight with one another, father. I'm not
a fool and you're not a fool, and things may as well be put in their
places as left untidy.

HOBSON. I tell you my mind's made up. You can't have Willie Mossop. Why,
lass, his father was a workhouse brat. A come-by-chance. (_Moves_ C.)

MAGGIE. It's news to me we're snobs in Salford. I have Willie Mossop.
I've to settle my life's course, and a good course, too, so think on.

HOBSON. I'd be the laughing-stock of the place if I allowed it. I won't
have it, Maggie. It's hardly decent at your time of life.

MAGGIE. I'm thirty and I'm marrying Willie Mossop. And now I'll tell you
my terms.

HOBSON. You're in a nice position to state terms, my lass.

MAGGIE. You will pay my man, Will Mossop, the same wages as before.
And as for me, I've given you the better part of twenty years of work
without wages. I'll work eight hours a day in future and you will pay me
fifteen shillings by the week.

HOBSON. Do you think I'm made of brass?

MAGGIE. You'll soon be made of less than you are if you let Willie go.
And if Willie goes, I go. That's what you've got to face.

HOBSON. I might face it, Maggie. Shop hands are cheap.

MAGGIE. Cheap ones are cheap. The sort you'd have to watch all day,
and you'd feel happy helping them to tie up parcels and sell laces with
Tudsbury and Heeler and Minns supping their ale without you. I'm value
to you, so's my man; and you can boast it at the "Moonraker's" that your
daughter Maggie's made the strangest, finest match a woman's made this
fifty year. And you can put your hand in your pocket and do what I
propose.

HOBSON. I'll show you what I propose, Maggie. (_He lifts trap and
calls_.) Will Mossop! (_He places hat on counter and unbuckles belt_.)
I cannot leather you, my lass. You're female, and exempt, but I can
leather him. Come up, Will Mossop.

(WILL _comes up trap and closes it_.)

You've taken up with my Maggie, I hear. (_He conceals strap_.)

WILLIE. Nay, I've not. She's done the taking up.

HOBSON. Well, Willie, either way, you've fallen on misfortune. Love's
led you astray, and I feel bound to put you right. (_Shows strap_.)

WILLIE. Maggie, what's this? (_Moves down_ R. _a little_.)

MAGGIE. I'm watching you, my lad.

HOBSON. Mind, Willie, you can keep your job. I don't bear malice, but
we must beat the love from your body, and every morning you come here to
work with love still sitting in you, you'll get a leathering. (_Getting
ready to strike_.)

WILLIE. You'll not beat love in me. You're making a great mistake, Mr.
Hobson, and--

HOBSON. You'll put aside your weakness for my Maggie if you've a liking
for a sound skin. You'll waste a gradely lot of brass at chemist's if I
am at you for a week with this. (_He swings the strap_.)

WILLIE. I'm none wanting thy Maggie, it's her that's after me, but I'll
tell you this, Mr. Hobson--(_seizing_ MAGGIE _roughly by the arm_),--if
you touch me with that belt, I'll take her quick, aye, and stick to her
like glue.

HOBSON. There's nobbut one answer to that kind of talk, my lad. (_He
strikes with belt_. MAGGIE _shrinks_.)

WILLIE. And I've nobbut one answer back. Maggie, I've none kissed you
yet. I shirked before. But, by gum, I'll kiss you now--(_he kisses her
quickly, with temper, not with passion, as quickly leaves her, to face_
HOBSON)-and take you and hold you. And if Mr. Hobson raises up that
strap again, I'll do more. I'll walk straight out of shop with thee and
us two 'ull set up for ourselves.

MAGGIE. Willie! I knew you had it in you, lad. (_She puts her arm
round his neck. He is quite unresponsive. His hands fall limply to his
sides_.)

(HOBSON _stands in amazed indecision_.)

CURTAIN.



ACT II

_A month later. The shop as Act I. It is about mid-day_. ALICE _is in_
MAGGIE'S _chair at the desk, some ledgers in front of her, and_ VICKEY
_is reading behind the counter. The trap is open and_ TUBBY _stands near
the desk by_ ALICE.

ALICE. I'm sure I don't know what to tell you to do, Tubby.

TUBBY. There's nothing in at all to start on, Miss Alice. We're worked
up.

ALICE. Well, father's out and I can't help you.

TUBBY. He'll play old Harry if he comes in and finds us doing nowt in
the workroom.

VICKEY. Then do something. We're not stopping you. (_Rises and moves
over to_ R.)

TUBBY (_turning on her_). You're not telling me neither. And I'm
supposed to take my orders from the shop.

ALICE. I don't know what to tell you. Nobody seems to want any boots
made.

TUBBY. The high-class trade has dropped like a stone this last month. Of
course we can go on making clogs for stock if you like.

ALICE. Then you'd better.

TUBBY. You know what's got by selling clogs won't pay the rent, let
alone wages, but if clogs are your orders, Miss Alice--(_He moves
towards trap_.)

ALICE. You suggested it.

TUBBY. I made the remark. (_Starts going down_.) But I'm not a rash man,
and I'm not going to be responsible to the master with his temper so
nowty and all since Miss Maggie went.

ALICE. Oh, dear! What would Miss Maggie have told you to do?

TUBBY. I couldn't tell you that, Miss, I'm sure. I don't recollect
things being as slack as this in her time.

VICKEY. You don't help us much for an intelligent foreman.

TUBBY. When you've told me what to do, I'll use my intelligence and see
it's done properly.

ALICE. Then go and make clogs.

TUBBY. Them's your orders?

ALICE. Yes.

TUBBY. Thank you, Miss Alice.

(TUBBY _goes down trap and closes it_.)

ALICE (_rises and moves up_ L.). I wonder if I've done right?

VICKEY. That's your look-out.

ALICE. I don't care. It's father's place to be here to tell them what to
do.

VICKEY. Maggie used to manage without him.

ALICE. Oh, yes. Go on. Blame me that the place is all at sixes and
sevens. (_Coming down to desk_.)

VICKEY. I don't blame you. I know as well as you do that it's father's
fault. He ought to look after his business himself instead of wasting
more time than ever in the "Moonraker's," but you needn't be snappy with
me about it.

ALICE. I'm not snappy in myself. (_Sitting at desk_.) It's these
figures. I can't get them right. What's 17 and 25?

VICKEY (_promptly_). Fifty-two, of course.

ALICE. Well, it doesn't balance right. Oh, I wish I was married and out
of it. (_Closes book_.)

VICKEY. Same here.

ALICE. You! (_Rises_.)

VICKEY. You needn't think you're the only one.

ALICE. Well, you're sly, Vickey Hobson. You've kept it to yourself.

VICKEY. It's just as well now that I did. Maggie's spoilt our chances
for ever. Nobody's fretting to get Willie Mossop for a brother-in-law.

(MAGGIE _enters, followed by_ FREDDY BEENSTOCK _and then_ WILL. MAGGIE
_and_ WILL _are actually about to be married, but their dress does not
specially indicate it. They are not in their older clothes, and that is
all_. FREDDY _is smarter than either, though only in his everyday dress.
He is not at all a blood, but the respectable son of a respectable
tradesman, and his appearance is such as to justify his attractiveness
in_ VICKEY'S _eyes_. WILL, _very shy, remains up_ L. C. _near the
counter_.)

ALICE. Maggie, you here!

MAGGIE. I thought we'd just drop in. Vickey, what's this that Mr.
Beenstock's telling me about you and him?

VICKEY (_sullenly_). If he's told you I suppose you know.

FREDDY (L. _of counter, smilingly_). She got it out of me, Vickey.

VICKEY. I don't know that it's any business of yours, Maggie.

(_The positions now are_ VICKEY R., MAGGIE R. C., FREDDY C., WILL _up_
L. C., ALICE _down_ L. C.)

MAGGIE. You'll never get no farther with it by yourselves from what I
hear of father's carryings-on.

VICKEY. That's your fault. Yours and his. (_Moving behind counter and
indicating_ WILLIE, _who is trying to efface himself at the back_.)

MAGGIE (_sharply_). Leave that alone. I'm here to help you if you'll
have my help.

(VICKEY _would say "No" but--_)

FREDDY. It's very good of you, Miss Maggie, I must say. Your father has
turned very awkward.

MAGGIE. I reckon he'll change. Has your young man been in yet this
morning, Alice? (_Moves to desk_.)

(FREDDY _moves to_ VICKEY _and leaning across the counter carries on a
mild flirtation with her_.)

ALICE (_indignantly_). My young--

MAGGIE. Albert Prosser.

ALICE. No.

MAGGIE. Do you expect him?

ALICE. He's not been here so often since you and Willie Mossop got--

MAGGIE (_sharply_). Since when?

ALICE. Since you made him buy that pair of boots he didn't want.

MAGGIE (_moving_ C.). I see. He didn't like paying for taking his
pleasure in our shop. Well, if he's not expected, somebody must go for
him. Prosser, Pilkington & Prosser, Solicitors of Bexley Square. That's
right, isn't it?

ALICE. Yes. Albert's "and Prosser."

MAGGIE (_moving up stage_ R.). Aye? Quite a big man in his way. Then,
will you go and fetch him, Mr. Beenstock? Tell him to bring the paper
with him.

VICKEY (_dropping down_ R., _indignantly_). You're ordering folk about a
bit.

MAGGIE. I'm used to it.

FREDDY. It's all right, Vickey.

ALICE. Is it? Suppose father comes in and finds Albert and Freddy here?

MAGGIE. He won't.

ALICE. He's beyond his time already.

MAGGIE. I know. You must have worried father very badly since I went,
Alice. (_Goes to_ ALICE, L.)

ALICE. Why?

MAGGIE. Tell them, Mr. Beenstock.

FREDDY. Well, the fact is, Mr. Hobson won't come because he's at our
place just now.

VICKEY. At your corn warehouse? What's father doing there?

FREDDY. He's--he's sleeping, Vickey.

ALICE. Sleeping?

(WILLIE _sits on a chair in front of the counter_.)

FREDDY. You see, we've a cellar trap in our place that opens in the
pavement and your father--wasn't looking very carefully where he was
going and he fell into it.

VICKEY. Fell? Is father hurt? (_Up to_ FREDDY.)

FREDDY. He's snoring very loudly, but he isn't hurt. He fell soft on
some bags.

MAGGIE. Now you can go for Albert Prosser.

(FREDDY _moves to doors_. L.)

ALICE. Is that all we're to be told?

MAGGIE. It's all there is to tell till Freddy's seen his solicitor.

FREDDY (_to_ VICKEY). I'll not be long.

MAGGIE. Don't. I've a job here for you when you get back.

(FREDDY _goes out_ L.)

ALICE. I don't know what you're aiming at, Maggie, but--

MAGGIE. The difference between us is that I do. I always did. (_Goes_
L.)

VICKEY (_indicating_ WILLIE). It's a queer thing you aimed at. (_Moves
up to behind counter_.)

MAGGIE (_moving up to_ WILL). I've done uncommon well myself, and I've
come here to put things straight for you. Father told you to get married
and you don't shape.

ALICE. He changed his mind.

MAGGIE. I don't allow for folks to change their minds. He made his
choice. He said get married, and you're going to.

VICKEY. You haven't made it easier for us, you know.

MAGGIE. Meaning Willie?

WILLIE. It wasn't my fault, Miss Vickey, really it wasn't.

MAGGIE. You call her Vickey, Will.

VICKEY. No, he doesn't. (_Drops down stage_ R.)

MAGGIE. He's in the family or going to be. And I'll tell you this. If
you want your Freddy, and if you want your Albert, you'll be respectful
to my Willie.

ALICE. Willie Mossop was our boot hand.

MAGGIE. He was, and you'll let bygones be bygones. He's as good as you
are now, and better.

WILLIE. Nay, come, Maggie--

MAGGIE. Better, I say. They're shop assistants. You're your own master,
aren't you?

WILLIE. I've got my name wrote up on the windows, but I dunno so much
about being master.

MAGGIE (_producing card and moving down_ L. _to_ ALICE). That's his
business card, William Mossop, Practical Boot and Shoe Maker, 39a,
Oldfield Road, Salford. William Mossop, Master Bootmaker! That's the man
you're privileged to call by his Christian name. Aye, and I'll do more
for you than let you call him in his name. You can both of you kiss him
for your brother-in-law to be.

WILLIE (_rising_). Nay, Maggie, I'm no great hand at kissing.

(VICKEY _and_ ALICE _are much annoyed_.)

MAGGIE (_dryly_). I've noticed that. A bit of practice will do you no
harm. Come along, Vickey.

ALICE (_interposing_). But, Maggie ... a shop of your own--

MAGGIE (_grimly_). I'm waiting, Vickey.

WILLIE. I don't see that you ought to drive her to it, Maggie.

MAGGIE. You hold your hush. (_Crosses_ R. _to_ VICKEY.)

ALICE. But however did you manage it? Where did the capital come from?

MAGGIE. It came. Will, stand still. She's making up her mind to it.

WILLIE. I'd just as lief not put her to the trouble.

MAGGIE. You'll take your proper place in this family, my lad, trouble or
no trouble.

VICKEY. I don't see why you should always get your way.

MAGGIE. It's just a habit. Come along now, Vickey, I've a lot to do
to-day and you're holding everything back.

VICKEY. It's under protest.

MAGGIE. Protest, but kiss.

(VICKEY _goes to and kisses_ WILL, _who finds he rather likes it.
She moves back_ R., _then goes up to case up_ R. _and starts dusting
furiously_.)

Your turn now, Alice.

ALICE. I'll do it if you'll help me with these books, Maggie.

MAGGIE. Books? Father's put you in my place? (_Goes_ L. C.)

ALICE. Yes.

MAGGIE. Then he must take the consequences. Your books aren't my affair.

ALICE. I think you might help me, Maggie.

(VICKEY _glances back at_ WILL.)

MAGGIE. I'm surprised at you, Alice, I really am, after what you've
just been told. Exposing your books to a rival shop. You ought to know
better. Will's waiting. And you're to kiss him hearty now.

ALICE. Very well. (_She moves_ C. _and kisses_ WILL, _then goes back_
L.)

WILLIE. There's more in kissing nice young women than I thought.

MAGGIE. Don't get too fond of it, my lad. (_She goes to him_.)

ALICE. Well, I hope you're satisfied, Maggie. You've got your way again,
and now perhaps you'll tell us if there's anything you want in this
shop.

MAGGIE. Eh? Are you trying to sell me something?

ALICE. I'm asking you, what's your business here?

MAGGIE. I've told you once. Will and me's taking a day off to put you in
the way of getting wed.

VICKEY (_moving to back of counter_). It looks like things are slow at
your new shop if you can walk round in your best clothes on a working
day.

WILLIE. It's not a working day with us. It's a wedding-day.

ALICE. You've been married this morning!

MAGGIE. Not us. (_Goes to_ R.) I'll have my sisters there when I get
wed. It's at one o'clock at St. Philip's. (_Sits_ R.)

VICKEY. But we can't leave the shop to come.

MAGGIE. Why not? Is trade so brisk?

VICKEY. No, but--

(WILLIE _sits in front of counter_.)

MAGGIE. Not so much high-class trade doing with you, eh?

ALICE. I don't see how you knew.

MAGGIE. I'm good at guessing. You'll not miss owt by coming with us to
church, and we'll expect you at home to-night for a wedding-spread.

VICKEY. It's asking us to approve.

MAGGIE. You have approved. You've kissed the bridegroom and you'll go
along with us. Father's safe where he is. (_Rises and crosses_ L.)

ALICE. And the shop?

MAGGIE. Tubby can see to the shop. And that reminds me. You _can_ sell
me something. There are some rings in that drawer there, Vickey.

VICKEY. Brass rings?

MAGGIE. Yes. I want one. That's the size. (_She holds up her
wedding-ring finger and moves to the counter_.)

VICKEY. That! But you're not taking it for--

(VICKEY _puts box of rings on counter_.)

MAGGIE. Yes, I am. Will and me aren't throwing money round, but we
can pay our way. There's fourpence for the ring. Gather it up, Vickey.
(_Putting down money and trying on rings_.)

ALICE. Wedded with a brass ring!

MAGGIE. This one will do. It's a nice fit. Alice, you haven't entered
that sale in your book. No wonder you're worried with the accounts if
that's the way you see to them. (_She comes down_ L. C. _and puts ring in
her bag_.)

ALICE. I'm a bit too much astonished at you to think about accounts. A
ring out of stock!

MAGGIE. They're always out of some one's stock.

VICKEY. Well, I'd think shame to myself to be married with a ring like
that.

MAGGIE. When folks can't afford the best they have to do without.

VICKEY. I'll take good care I never go without.

MAGGIE. Semi-detached for you, I suppose, and a houseful of new
furniture.

ALICE. Haven't you furnished?

MAGGIE. Partly what. We've made a start at the Flat Iron Market. (_Sits_
L. _of_ WILLIE.)

ALICE. I'd stay single sooner than have other people's cast-off sticks
in my house. Where's your pride gone to, Maggie?

MAGGIE. I'm not getting wed myself to help the furnishing trade along. I
suppose you'd turn your nose up at second-hand stuff, too, Vickey?

VICKEY. I'd start properly or not at all. (_Goes to desk_, L.)

MAGGIE. Then you'll neither of you have any objections to my clearing
out the lumber-room upstairs. (_Rises_.) We brought a hand-cart round
with us. (_Nudges_ WILL.)

(WILL _rises and takes his coat off. He has detachable cuffs which he
places carefully on the arm-chair_.)

VICKEY. You made sure of things.

MAGGIE. Yes. Get upstairs, Will. I told you what to bring.

ALICE. Wait a bit. (_Crosses to_ C.)

MAGGIE. Go on. (_Moves_ R. _slightly_.)

(WILL _goes into the house_.)

ALICE. Let me tell you if you claim the furniture from your old
bedroom--(_up to_ MAGGIE),--that it's my room now, and you'll not budge
a stick of it.

MAGGIE. I expected you'd promote yourself, Alice. But I said
lumber-room. There's a two-three broken chairs in the attic and a sofa
with the springs all gone. You'll not tell me they're of any use to you.

ALICE. Nor to you, neither.

MAGGIE. Will's handy with his fingers. He'll put in this afternoon
mending them. They'll be secure against you come to sit on them at
supper-time to-night.

VICKEY. And that's the way you're going to live! With cast-off
furniture. (_Moves to window_, L.)

MAGGIE. Aye. In two cellars in Oldfield Road.

VICKEY _and_ ALICE. A cellar!

MAGGIE. _Two_ of 'em, Alice. One to live and work in and the other to
sleep in.

ALICE. Well, it 'ud not suit me.

VICKEY. Nor me.

MAGGIE. It suits me fine. And when me and Will are richer than the lot
of you together, it'll be a grand satisfaction to look back and think
about how we were when we began.

(WILL _appears_ R. _with two crippled chairs and begins to cross the
shop_.)

VICKEY (_stopping him_). Just a minute, Will. (_She examines the
chairs_.) These chairs are not so bad.

MAGGIE. You can sit on one to-night and see.

VICKEY. You know, mended up, those chairs would do very well for my
kitchen when I'm wed.

ALICE. Yes, or for mine.

MAGGIE. I reckon my parlour comes afront of your kitchens, though.

VICKEY. Parlour! I thought you said you'd only one living-room.

MAGGIE. Then it might as well be called a parlour as by any other
name. (_Crosses to doors_, L., _and opens them_.) Put the chairs on the
hand-cart, Will.

(WILL _goes out to street_.)

And as for your kitchens, you've got none yet, and if you want my plan
for you to work, you'll just remember all I'm taking off you is some
crippled stuff that isn't yours and what I'm getting for you is marriage
portions.

ALICE. What? (_Moves to_ C.)

VICKEY. Marriage portions, Maggie!

(FREDDY _re-enters, accompanied by_ ALBERT.)

MAGGIE (_to_ VICKEY _and_ ALICE). You'd better put your hats on now, or
you'll be late at the church. (_Gets between_ ALICE _and_ VICKEY, C.)

VICKEY. But aren't we to know first--?

MAGGIE (_herding them to_ R. _exit_). You'll know all right. Be quick
with your things now.

(ALICE _and_ VICKEY _go out_ R.)

MAGGIE (_turns_). Good morning, Albert. (_Goes to him_, L.) Have you got
what Freddy asked you for?

ALBERT. Yes, but I'm afraid--

(WILL _re-enters from street, crosses_ R. _and goes off_.)

MAGGIE. Never mind being afraid. Freddy, I told you I'd a job here for
you. You go upstairs with Will. There's a sofa to come down. Get your
coat off to it. Now, then, Albert.

FREDDY. But--(_Moving over to_ R.)

MAGGIE. I've told you what to do, and you can't do it in your coat.
(_Moves down_ L.) If that sofa isn't here in two minutes, I'll leave the
lot of you to tackle this yourselves and a nice hash you'll make of it.

(FREDDY _takes his coat off and puts it on a chair in front of the
counter_.)

FREDDY. All right, Maggie.

(FREDDY _goes out_ R., ALBERT _produces blue paper. She reads_.)

MAGGIE (_sitting in arm-chair_, R. C.). Do you call this English?

ALBERT (_standing_ L. _of her_). Legal English, Miss Hobson.

MAGGIE. I thought it weren't the sort we talk in Lancashire. What is it
when you've got behind the whereases and the saids and to wits?

ALBERT. It's what you told Freddy to instruct me. Action against Henry
Horatio Hobson for trespass on the premises of Jonathan Beenstock & Co.,
Corn Merchants, of Chapel Street, Salford, with damages to certain corn
bags caused by falling on them and further damages claimed for spying on
the trade secrets of the aforesaid J. B. & Co.

MAGGIE. Well, I'll take your word that this means that--I shouldn't
have thought it, but I suppose lawyers are like doctors. They've each
a secret language, of their own so that if you get a letter from one
lawyer you've to take it to another to get it read, just like a doctor
sends you to a chemist with a rigmarole that no one else can read, so
they can charge you what they like for a drop of coloured water.

ALBERT. I've made this out to your instructions, Miss Hobson, but I'm
far from saying it's good law, and I'd not be keen on going into court
with it.

MAGGIE. Nobody asked you to. It won't come into court.

(WILL _and_ FREDDY _enter C. with a ramshackle horsehair sofa_.)

(_Rises_.) Open that door for them, Albert.

(ALBERT _opens street door. They pass out_.)

What's the time? You can see the clock from there.

ALBERT (_outside street door_). It's a quarter to one.

MAGGIE (_flying to_ R. _door, opening it, and calling_). Girls, if
you're late for my wedding I'll never forgive you.

(_She turns as_ WILL _and_ FREDDY _return_.)

Put your coats on. Now, then, Freddy--(_going_ C.),--you take that paper
and put it on _my_ father in _your_ cellar.

FREDDY. Now?

MAGGIE. Now? Yes, of course now. He might waken any time.

FREDDY. He looked fast enough. Aren't I to come to the church?

MAGGIE. Yes, if you do that quick enough to get there before we're
through.

FREDDY. All right. (_He goes out_ L., _pocketing the paper_. MAGGIE
_follows him to the door_.)

MAGGIE. Now there's that hand-cart. Are we to take it with us?

ALBERT. To church! You can't do that.

WILLIE. I'll take it home. (_Slight move_.)

MAGGIE. And have me waiting for you at the church? That's not for me, my
lad.

ALBERT. You can't very well leave it where it is.

MAGGIE. No. There's only one thing for it. You'll have to take it to our
place, Albert.

ALBERT. Me!

MAGGIE. There's the key. (_Down to_ ALBERT, L., _and hands it from her
bag_.) It's 39a, Oldfield Road.

ALBERT. Yes, but to push a hand-cart through Salford in broad daylight!

MAGGIE. It won't dirty your collar.

ALBERT. Suppose some of my friends see me?

(_They both move up_ L.)

MAGGIE. Look here, my lad, if you're too proud to do a job like that,
you're not the husband for my sister.

ALBERT. It's the look of the thing. Can't you send somebody from here?

MAGGIE. No. You can think it over. (_She raises trap_.) Tubby!

TUBBY (_below_). Yes, Miss. (_He appears half-way up trap_.) Why, it's
Miss Maggie!

MAGGIE. Come up, Tubby. You're in charge of the shop. We'll all be out
for awhile.

TUBBY. I'll be up in half a minute, Miss Maggie. (_He goes down and
closes trap_.)

MAGGIE. Well, Albert Prosser?

ALBERT (_up_ L.). I suppose I must.

MAGGIE. That's right. We'll call it your wedding gift to me, and I'll
allow you're putting yourself out a bit for me.

(_Going with him to the door. He goes. She turns and comes to_ C.)

Well, Will, you've not had much to say for yourself to-day. Howst
feeling, lad?

WILLIE. I'm going through with it, Maggie.

MAGGIE. Eh?

WILLIE. My mind's made up. I've got wrought up to point. I'm ready.

MAGGIE. It's church we're going to, not the dentist's.

WILLIE. I know. You get rid of summat at dentist's, but it's taking
summat on to go to church with a wench, and the Lord knows what.

MAGGIE. Sithee, Will, I've a respect for church. Yon's not the place for
lies. The parson's going to ask you will you have me and you'll either
answer truthfully or not at all. If you're not willing, just say so now,
and--

WILLIE. I'll tell him "yea".

MAGGIE. And truthfully?

WILLIE. Yes, Maggie. I'm resigned. You're growing on me, lass. I'll toe
the line with you.

(ALICE _and_ VICKEY _enter_ R. _in their Sunday clothes--the same at
which_ HOBSON _grew indignant in Act I_. MAGGIE _takes_ WILLIE _across
to_ L.)

ALICE. We're ready, Maggie.

MAGGIE. And time you were. It's not your weddings that you're dressing
for. (_By trap_.) Come up, Tubby, and keep an eye on things.

VICKEY. (_to_ WILL). Will, have you got the ring?

MAGGIE. I have. Do you think I'd trust him to remember?

(MAGGIE _goes off with_ WILL. VICKEY _and_ ALICE _are following,
laughing_. TUBBY _comes up trap and throws old shoes after them_.)

CURTAIN.


[Illustration] Reddish brick walls. Plaster falling off in places. Very
old square carpet. Fire burning. No ornaments. Tin box on mantelpiece. A
few plates, workbasket and tin boxes on dresser. Shoes, clogs on top
of dresser. Old coloured tablecloth on table. Roll of leather, etc.,
at table behind screen. Three hat pegs on wall above fireplace. Lamp on
mantelpiece.


ACT III

_The cellar in Oldfield Road is at once workroom, shop, and living-room.
It is entered from the_ R. _corner by a door at the top of a flight of
some seven stairs. Its three windows are high up at the back--not
shop windows, but simply to give light. Each window has on it "William
Mossop, Practical Bootmaker," reversed as seen from the inside and is
illuminated dimly from outside by a neighbouring street lamp.

A door_ L. _leads to the bedroom. Up stage_ L. _is a small screen or
partition whose purpose is to conceal the sink. A shoemaker's bench,
leather and tackle are against the wall_, R., _above the fire-place.
Below the door_, L., _is a small dresser. Table_ R. C. _Seating
accommodation consists solely of the sofa and the two chairs taken from_
HOBSON'S, _now repaired. The sofa is_ L. _of the table, the two chairs_
R. _Crowded on the sofa are, in order, from down up,_ ALBERT, ALICE,
VICKEY, FRED.

_As the curtain rises, the four are standing, tea-cups in hand, saying
together "The Bride and Bridegroom." They drink and sit. General
laughter and conversation. On the chair down stage is_ MAGGIE. _From the
other chair_, C., _behind table_, WILL _rises, nervously, and rushes
his little speech like a child who has learnt a lesson. The table has
hot-house flowers (in a basin) and the remains of a meal at which tea
only has been drunk, and the feast is represented by the sections of
a large pork pie and a small wedding cake. As_ WILL _rises_, ALBERT
_hammers on the table_.

ALICE _suppresses him_. WILLIE. It's a very great pleasure to us to see
you here to-night. It's an honour you do us, and I assure you, speaking
for my--my wife, as well as for myself, that the--the--

MAGGIE (_in an undertone_). Generous.

WILLIE. Oh, aye. That's it. That the generous warmth of the sentiments
so cordially expressed by Mr. Beenstock and so enthusiastically seconded
by--no, I've gotten that wrong road round--expressed by Mr. Prosser and
seconded by Mr. Beenstock--will never be forgotten by either my life
partner or self--and--and I'd like to drink this toast to you in my own
house. Our guests, and may they all be married soon themselves.

MAGGIE (_rising and drinking with_ WILL). Our guests.

(WILL _and_ MAGGIE _sit. General laughter and conversation_.)

ALBERT (_solemnly rising_). In rising to respond--

ALICE (_tugging his coat and putting him into his seat_). Sit down.
We've had enough of speeches. I know men fancy themselves when they're
talking, but you've had one turn and you needn't start again.

ALBERT. But we ought to thank him, Alice.

ALICE. I dare say. But you'll not speak as well as he did, so we can
leave it with a good wind-up. I'm free to own you took me by surprise,
Will.

FREDDY. Very neat speech indeed. (_Rising_.)

VICKEY. Who taught you, Will?

WILLIE. I've been learning a lot lately.

ALICE. I thought that speech never came natural from Will.

MAGGIE. I'm educating him.

FREDDY. Very apt pupil, I must say.

MAGGIE. He'll do. Another twenty years and I know which of you three men
'ull be thought most of at the Bank.

FREDDY. That's looking ahead a bit.

MAGGIE. I'll admit it needs imagination to see it now.

ALBERT (_rising and moving slightly_ C.). Well, the start's all
right, you know. Snug little rooms. Shop of your own. And so on. I was
wondering where you raised the capital for this, Maggie.

MAGGIE. I? You mustn't call it my shop. It's his.

ALICE. Do you mean to tell me that Willie found the capital?

MAGGIE. He's the saving sort.

ALICE. He must be if you've done this out of what father used to pay
him.

MAGGIE. Well, we haven't. Not altogether. We've had help.

ALBERT. Ah!

VICKEY. It's a mystery to me where you got it from.

MAGGIE. Same place as those flowers, Albert.

ALBERT. Hot-house flowers, I see. (_He rises and examines them_.) I was
wondering where they came from.

(VICKEY _and_ FREDDY _smell flowers_.)

MAGGIE. Same place as the money, Albert.

ALBERT. Ah!

ALICE (_rising and following him_, C.). Well, I think we ought to be
getting home, Maggie.

MAGGIE (_rising, as do the rest_. VICKEY _and_ FREDDY _move up stage_).
I shouldn't marvel. I reckon Tubby's a bit tired of looking after the
shop by now, and if father's wakened up and come in--

ALICE. That's it. I'm a bit nervous.

MAGGIE. He'll have an edge on his temper. Come and put your hats on.

(_She is going_ L., _with_ ALICE _and_ VICKEY, _then stops_.)

Willie, we'll need this table when they're gone. You'd better be
clearing the pots away.

WILLIE (_by table_, R.) Yes, Maggie.

(MAGGIE _turns to_ L.)

FREDDY. But--you--

ALBERT. Oh, Lord!

(_They laugh_.)

MAGGIE (_quite calmly_). And you and Fred can just lend him a hand with
the washing up, Albert.

FREDDY. Me wash pots!

VICKEY (_really outraged_). Maggie, we're guests.

MAGGIE. I know. Only Albert laughed at Willie, and washing up 'ull maybe
make him think on that it's not allowed.

(_She ushers_ ALICE _and_ VICKEY _out_, L., _and follows_. WILLIE
_begins to put pots on tray which he gets from behind screen, up_ L.)

ALBERT (_after he and_ FRED _have looked at each other, then at_ WILL,
_then at each other again_). Are you going to wash up pots?

FREDDY. Are you?

ALBERT. I look at it like this myself. All being well, you and I are
marrying into this family and we know what Maggie is. If we start giving
in to her now, she'll be a nuisance to us all our lives.

FREDDY. That's right enough, but there's this plan of hers to get us
married. Are you prepared to work it for us?

ALBERT. I'm not. Anything but--

FREDDY. Then till she's done it we're to keep the sweet side of Maggie.

ALBERT. But, washing pots! (_Moves down_ L.)

(_There is a pause. They look at_ WILL, _who has brought the tray from
behind the screen and is now clearing up the table_.)

FREDDY. What would you do in our place, Will?

WILLIE. Please yourselves. I'm getting on with what she told me.

FREDDY. You're married to her. We aren't.

ALBERT. What do you need the table for in such a hurry?

WILLIE; Nay, I'm not in any hurry myself.

FREDDY. Maggie wants it for something.

WILLIE. It'll be for my lessons, I reckon. She's schooling me.

FREDDY. And don't you want to learn, then?

WILLIE (_moves_ C.). 'Tisn't that. I--just don't want to be rude to
you--turning you out so early. I don't see you need to go away so soon.
(_Crosses below table_.)

ALBERT. Why not?

WILLIE. I'm fond of a bit of company.

ALBERT. Do you want company on your wedding night?

WILLIE. I don't favour your going so soon. (_Crosses_ C. _again_.)

FREDDY. He's afraid to be alone with her. That's what it is. He's shy of
his wife.

(_They laugh_.)

WILLIE. That's a fact. I've not been married before, you see. I've not
been left alone with her, either. Up to now she's been coming round to
where I lodged at Tubby Wadlow's to give me my lessons. It's different
now, and I freely own I'm feeling awkward-like. I'd be deeply obliged if
you would stay on a bit to help to--to thaw the ice for me.

FREDDY. You've been engaged to her, haven't you?

WILLIE. Aye, but it weren't for long. And you see, Maggie's not the sort
you get familiar with.

FREDDY. You had quite long enough to thaw the ice. It's not our job to
do your melting for you. (_Moves away_ R.)

ALBERT. No. Fred, these pots need washing. We will wash them.

(ALBERT _carries tray behind screen. Water runs. He is seen flourishing
towels_. FRED _is following when_ WILLIE _calls him back and takes tray
to table_.)

WILLIE. Fred, would you like it yourself with--with a wench like Maggie?
(_Goes_ R. C.)

FREDDY. That's not the point. It wasn't me she married.

WILLIE. It's that being alone with her that worries me, and I did think
you'd stand by a fellow man to make things not so strange at first.

ALBERT (_coming down, with a dishcloth_). That's not the way we look at
it. Hurry up with those cups, Fred. (_Goes to_ FRED _up stage_ R.)

(MAGGIE _enters with_ VICKEY _and_ ALICE _in outdoor clothes_.)

MAGGIE. Have you broken anything yet, Albert?

ALBERT (_indignantly_). Broken? No. (_Takes cup from tray and wipes
it_.)

MAGGIE. Too slow to, I expect.

FREDDY. I must say you don't show much gratitude.

ALBERT. Aren't you at all surprised to find us doing this?

MAGGIE. Surprised? I told you to do it.

FREDDY. Yes, but--(_Takes tray up stage_, L.)

MAGGIE (_taking towel from him_). You can stop now. I'll finish when
you're gone. (_Moves down_ R.)

(_Knock at door upstairs_, R.)

ALICE. Who's that?

MAGGIE. Some one who can't read, I reckon. You hung that card on door,
Will?

WILLIE. Aye, it's there. And you wrote it, Maggie.

MAGGIE. I knew better than to trust to you. "Business suspended for the
day" it says, and they that can't read it can go on knocking.

HOBSON (_off_ R. _upstairs, after another knock_). Are you in, Maggie?

VICKEY (_terrified_). It's father!

(_General consternation_.)

ALBERT. Oh, Lord!

MAGGIE. What's the matter? Are you afraid of him?

FREDDY. Well, I think, all things considered, and seeing--

MAGGIE. All right. We'll consider 'em. You can go into the bedroom, the
lot of you.... No, not you, Willie. The rest. I'll shout when I want
you.

ALICE. When he's gone.

MAGGIE. It'll be before he's gone.

(MAGGIE _crosses to_ L. _with them_.)

VICKEY. But we don't want--

MAGGIE. Is this your house or mine?

VICKEY. It's your cellar.

MAGGIE. And I'm in charge of it.

(_The four go into bedroom_. VICKEY _starts to argue_. ALBERT _opens
the door_. VICKEY _and_ ALICE _go out followed by_ FREDDY _and_ ALBERT.
VICKEY _is pushed inside_. WILL _is going to stairs_.) You sit you
still, and don't forget you're gaffer here. I'll open door. (WILLIE
_sits in chair above table_. MAGGIE _goes upstairs and opens the door.
Enter_ HOBSON _to top stair_.)

HOBSON (_with some slight apology_). Well, Maggie.

MAGGIE (_uninvitingly_). Well, father.

HOBSON (_without confidence_). I'll come in.

MAGGIE (_standing in his way_). Well, I don't know. I'll have to ask the
master about that.

HOBSON. Eh? The master?

MAGGIE. You and him didn't part on the best of terms, you know. (_Over
the railings_.) Will, it's my father. Is he to come in?

WILLIE (_loudly and boldly_). Aye, let him come.

(HOBSON _comes downstairs_. MAGGIE _closes door behind him and follows_.
HOBSON _stares round at the cellar_.)

HOBSON. You don't sound cordial about your invitation, young man.

WILLIE (_rises and goes_ C.). Nay, but I am. (_Shaking hands for a long
time_.) I'm right down glad to see you, Mr. Hobson. (MAGGIE _comes down_
R.) It makes the wedding-day complete-like, you being her father and
I--I hope you'll see your way to staying a good long while.

HOBSON. Well--

MAGGIE. That's enough, Will. You don't need to overdo it. You can sit
down for five minutes, father. That sofa 'ull bear your weight. It's
been tested.

(HOBSON _sits on sofa_, R. C. WILLIE _goes back to the chair_, R.)

WILLIE (_taking up teapot_). There's nobbut tea to drink and I reckon
what's in the pot is stewed, so I'll--

MAGGIE (_taking pot off him as he moves to fire-place with it_). You'll
not do owt of sort. Father likes his liquids strong.

WILLIE (_down_ R. _of table_). A piece of pork pie now, Mr. Hobson?

HOBSON (_groaning_). Pork pie!

MAGGIE (_sharply_). You'll be sociable now you're here, I hope. (_She
pours tea at table, top end_.)

HOBSON. It wasn't sociability that brought me, Maggie.

MAGGIE. What was it, then?

HOBSON. Maggie, I'm in disgrace. A sore and sad misfortune's fallen on
me.

MAGGIE (_cutting_). Happen a piece of wedding cake 'ull do you good.

HOBSON (_shuddering_). It's sweet.

MAGGIE. That's natural in cake.

(MAGGIE _sits in chair above table_.)

HOBSON. I've gotten such a head.

MAGGIE. Aye. But wedding cake's a question of heart. There'd be no bride
cakes made at all if we thought first about our heads. I'm quite aware
it's foolishness, but I've a wish to see my father sitting at my table
eating my wedding cake on my wedding-day.

HOBSON. It's a very serious thing I came about, Maggie.

MAGGIE. It's not more serious than knowing that you wish us well.

HOBSON. Well, Maggie, you know my way. When a thing's done it's done.
You've had your way and done what you wanted. I'm none proud of the
choice you made and I'll not lie and say I am, but I've shaken your
husband's hand, and that's a sign for you. The milk's spilt and I'll not
cry.

MAGGIE (_holding plate_). Then there's your cake, and you can eat it.

HOBSON. I've given you my word there's no ill feeling. (_Pushes cake
away_.)

MAGGIE. So now we'll have the deed. (_Pushes it back_.)

HOBSON. You're a hard woman. (_He eats_.) You've no consideration for
the weakness of old age.

MAGGIE. Finished?

HOBSON. Pass me that tea.

(_She passes: he drinks_.)

That's easier.

MAGGIE. Now tell me what it is you came about?

HOBSON. I'm in sore trouble, Maggie.

MAGGIE (_rising and going towards door_, L.). Then I'll leave you with
my husband to talk it over.

HOBSON. Eh?

MAGGIE. You'll not be wanting me. Women are only in your way.

HOBSON (_rising and going_ C.). Maggie, you re not going to desert me in
the hour of my need, are you?

MAGGIE. Surely to goodness you don't want a woman to help you after all
you've said! Will 'ull do his best, I make no doubt. (_She goes towards
door_.) Give me a call when you've finished, Will.

HOBSON (_following her_). Maggie! It's private.

MAGGIE. Why, yes. I'm going and you can discuss it man to man with no
fools of women about.

HOBSON. I tell you I've come to see you, not him. It's private from him.

MAGGIE. Private from Will? Nay, it isn't. Will's in the family--(_comes
back a little_),--and you've nowt to say to me that can't be said to
him.

HOBSON. I've to tell you this with him there?

MAGGIE. Will and me's one.

WILLIE. Sit down, Mr. Hobson.

MAGGIE. You call him father now.

WILLIE (_astonished_). Do I?

HOBSON. Does he?

MAGGIE. He does. Sit down, Will.

(WILL _sits right of table_. MAGGIE _stands at the head of the table_.
HOBSON _sits on sofa_.)

Now, if you're ready, father, we are. What's the matter?

HOBSON. That--(_producing the blue paper_)--that's the matter.

(MAGGIE _accepts and passes it to_ WILL _and goes behind his chair.
He is reading upside down. She bends over chair and turns it right way
up_.)

MAGGIE. What is it, Will?

HOBSON (_banging table_). Ruin, Maggie, that's what it is! Ruin and
bankruptcy. Am I vicar's warden at St. Philip's or am I not? Am I Hobson
of Hobson's Boot Shop on Chapel Street, Salford? Am I a respectable
ratepayer and the father of a family or--

MAGGIE (_who has been reading over_ WILL'S _shoulder_). It's an action
for damages for trespass, I see.

HOBSON. It's a stab in the back, it's an unfair, un-English, cowardly
way of taking a mean advantage of a casual accident.

MAGGIE. Did you trespass?

HOBSON. Maggie, I say it solemnly, it is all your fault. I had an
accident. I don't deny it. I'd been in the "Moonraker's" and I'd stayed
too long. And why? Why did I stay too long? To try to forget that I'd a
thankless child, to erase from the tablets of memory the recollection
of your conduct. That was the cause of it. And the result, the blasting,
withering result? I fell into that cellar. I slept in that cellar and I
awoke to this catastrophe. Lawyers... law-costs... publicity... ruin.

MAGGIE (_moving round table to_ C.). I'm still asking you. Was it an
accident? Or did you trespass?

HOBSON. It's an accident. As plain as Salford Town Hall it's an
accident, but they that live by law have twisted ways of putting things
that make white show as black. I'm in their grip at last. I've kept
away from lawyers all my life, I've hated lawyers, and they've got their
chance to make me bleed for it. I've dodged them, and they've caught me
in the end. They'll squeeze me dry for it.

WILLIE. My word, and that's summat like a squeeze and all.

(HOBSON _stares at him_.)

MAGGIE. I can see it's serious. I shouldn't wonder if you didn't lose
some trade from this.

HOBSON. Wonder! (_Rising and moving_ C.) It's as certain as Christmas.
My good-class customers are not going to buy their boots from a man
who's stood up in open court and had to acknowledge he was overcome at
12 o'clock in the morning. They'll not remember it was private grief
that caused it all. They'll only think the worse of me because I
couldn't control my daughter better than to let her go and be the cause
of sorrow to me in my age. That's what you've done. Brought this on me,
you two, between you.

WILLIE. Do you think it will get into the paper, Maggie?

MAGGIE. Yes, for sure. You'll see your name in the _Salford Reporter_,
father.

HOBSON. _Salford Reporter_! Yes, and more. When there is ruin and
disaster, and outrageous fortune overwhelms a man of my importance to
the world, it isn't only the _Salford Reporter_ that takes note of it.
This awful cross that's come to me will be recorded in the _Manchester
Guardian_ for the whole of Lancashire to read.

WILLIE. Eh, by gum, think of that! To have your name appearing in
the _Guardian_! Why, it's very near worth while to be ruined for the
pleasure of reading about yourself in a printed paper.

HOBSON (_sits sofa_). It's there for others to read besides me, my lad.

WILLIE. Aye, you're right. I didn't think of that. This 'ull give a
lot of satisfaction to a many I could name. Other people's troubles
is mostly what folks read the paper for, and I reckon it's twice the
pleasure to them when it's trouble of a man they know themselves. (_He
is perfectly simple and has no malicious intention_.)

HOBSON. To hear you talk it sounds like a pleasure to you.

WILLIE (_sincerely_). Nay, it's not. You've ate my wedding cake
and you've shook my hand. We're friends, I hope, and I were nobbut
meditating like a friend. I always think it's best to look on the worst
side of things first, then whatever chances can't be worse than you
looked for. There's St. Philip's now. I don't suppose you'll go on being
vicar's warden after this to do, and it brought you a powerful lot of
customers from the church, did that.

HOBSON (_turning to her_). I'm getting a lot of comfort from your
husband, Maggie.

MAGGIE. It's about what you deserve. (_Goes to him_.)

HOBSON. Have you got any more consolation for me, Will?

WILLIE (_aggrieved_). I only spoke what came into my mind.

HOBSON. Well, have you spoken it all?

WILLIE. I can keep my mouth shut if you'd rather.

HOBSON. Don't strain yourself, Will Mossop. When a man's mind is full of
thoughts like yours, they're better out than in. You let them come, my
lad. They'll leave a cleaner place behind.

WILLIE. I'm not much good at talking, and I always seem to say wrong
things when I do talk. I'm sorry if my well-meant words don't suit your
taste, but I thought you came here for advice.

HOBSON. I didn't come to you, you jumped-up cock-a-hooping--(_Rising_.)

MAGGIE. That 'ull do, father. (_Pushes him down_.) My husband's _trying_
to help you.

HOBSON (_glares impatiently for a time, then meekly says_). Yes, Maggie.

MAGGIE. Now about this accident of yours.

HOBSON. Yes, Maggie.

MAGGIE. It's the publicity that you're afraid of most.

HOBSON. It's being dragged into a court of law at all, me that's voted
right all through my life and been a sound supporter of the Queen and
Constitution.

MAGGIE. Then we must try to keep it out of court. (_Moves away to_ L.
C.)

HOBSON (_rising and moving to_ C.). If there are lawyers in Heaven,
Maggie, which I doubt, they may keep cases out of courts there. On earth
a lawyer's job's to squeeze a man and squeeze him where his squirming's
seen the most--in court.

MAGGIE. I've heard of cases being settled out of court, in private.

HOBSON. In private? Yes, I dare say, and all the worse for that. It's
done amongst themselves in lawyers' offices behind closed doors so no
one can see they're squeezing twice as hard in private as they'd dare
to do in public. There's some restraint demanded by a public place, but
privately! It'll cost a fortune to settle this in private, Maggie.

MAGGIE. I make no doubt it's going to cost you something, but you'd
rather do it privately than publicly?

HOBSON (_coming back to sofa and sitting again_). If only it were not a
lawyer's office.

MAGGIE. You can settle it with the lawyer out of his office. You can
settle with him here.

(_She goes_ L. _and opens door. Then comes down_ L.) Albert!

(_Enter_ ALBERT, _who leaves door open. He comes_ C.)

This is Mr. Prosser, of Prosser, Pilkington, and Prosser.

HOBSON (_amazed_). He is!

MAGGIE. Yes.

HOBSON (_incredulously, rising_). You're a lawyer!

ALBERT. Yes, I'm a lawyer.

HOBSON (_with disgust almost too deep for words_). At your age!

MAGGIE (_going up to door_). Come out, all of you. (_She moves to top
end of table_.)

(_There is reluctance inside, then_ VICKEY, ALICE _and_ FRED _enter and
stand in a row_, L.)

HOBSON. Alice! Vickey!

MAGGIE. Family gathering. This is Mr. Beenstock, of Beenstock & Co.

FREDDY. How do you do?

HOBSON. What! Here!

(_The situation is plainly beyond his mused brain's capacity_.)

MAGGIE. When you've got a thing to settle, you need all the parties to
be present.

HOBSON. But there are so many of them. Where have they all come from?

MAGGIE. My bedroom.

HOBSON. Your--? Maggie, I wish you'd explain before my brain gives way.

MAGGIE. It's quite simple. I got them here because I expected you.

HOBSON. You expected me!

MAGGIE. Yes. You're in trouble.

HOBSON (_shaking his head, then as if finding an outlet, pouncing on_
ALICE). What's it got to do with Alice and Vickey? What are they doing
here ? What's happening to the shop? (_Moves_ C.)

ALICE. Tubby Wadlow's looking after it.

HOBSON. And is it Tubby's job to look after the shop?

VICKEY. He'd got no other job. The shop's so slack since Maggie left.

HOBSON (_swelling with rage_). And do you run that shop? Do you give
orders there? Do you decide when you can put your hats on and walk out
of it?

MAGGIE. They come out because it's my wedding-day, father. It's reason
enough, and Will and me 'ull do the same for them. We'll close the shop
and welcome on their wedding-days.

HOBSON. Their wedding-days! That's a long time off. It'll be many a
year before there's another wedding in this family, I give you my word.
(_Turns to_ MAGGIE.) One daughter defying me is quite enough.

ALBERT. Hadn't we better get to business, sir?

HOBSON (_turning on him_). Young man, don't abuse a noble word. You're
a lawyer. By your own admission you're a lawyer. Honest men live by
business and lawyers live by law.

ALBERT. In this matter, sir, I am following the instructions of my
client, Mr. Beenstock, and the remark you have just let fall, before
witnesses, appears to me to bear a libellous reflection on the action of
my client.

HOBSON. What! So it's libel now. Isn't trespass and... and spying on
trade secrets enough for you, you blood-sucking--(_To_ ALBERT.)

ALBERT. One moment, Mr. Hobson. You can call me what you like--

HOBSON. And I shall. You--

ALBERT. But I wish to remind you, in your own interests, that abuse of
a lawyer is remembered in the costs. Now, my client tells me he is
prepared to settle this matter out of court. Personally, I don't advise
him to, because we should probably get higher damages in court. But Mr.
Beenstock has no desire to be vindictive. He remembers your position,
your reputation for respectability, and--

HOBSON. How much?

ALBERT. Er--I beg your pardon?

HOBSON. I'm not so fond of the sound of your voice as you are. What's
the figure?

ALBERT. The sum we propose, which will include my ordinary costs, but
not any additional costs incurred by your use of defamatory language to
me, is one thousand pounds.

HOBSON. What!

MAGGIE. It isn't.

HOBSON. One thousand pounds for tumbling down a cellar! Why, I might
have broken my leg. (_Moves away to_ R.)

ALBERT. That is in the nature of an admission, Mr. Hobson. Our flour
bags saved your legs from fracture and I am therefore inclined to add to
the sum I have stated a reasonable estimate of the doctor's bill we
have saved you by protecting your legs with our bags. (_Turns towards_
FREDDY.)

(HOBSON _sits_ R.)

MAGGIE. Eh, Albert Prosser, I can see you're going to get on in the
world, but you needn't be greedy here. That one thousand's too much.
(_Comes_ C.)

ALBERT. We thought--

MAGGIE. Then you can think again.

FREDDY. But--

MAGGIE. If there are any more signs of greediness from you two,
there'll be a counter-action for personal damages due to your criminal
carelessness in leaving your cellar flap open.

HOBSON. (_rising_). Maggie, you've saved me. I'll bring that action.
I'll show them up.

MAGGIE. You're not damaged, and one lawyer's quite enough. But he'll
be more reasonable now. I know perfectly well what father can afford to
pay, and it's not a thousand pounds nor anything like a thousand pounds.

HOBSON. Not so much of your can't afford, Maggie. You'll make me out a
pauper.

MAGGIE (_turns to HOBSON_). You can afford 500 pounds and you're going
to pay 500 pounds.

HOBSON. Oh, but... there's a difference between affording and paying.

MAGGIE. You can go to the courts and be reported in the papers if you
like. (_Moves to above table_, R.C.)

HOBSON. It's the principle I care about. I'm being beaten by a lawyer.

VICKEY (_going to_ HOBSON). Father, dear, how can you be beaten when
they wanted a thousand pounds and you're only going to give 500 pounds?

HOBSON. I hadn't thought of that.

VICKEY. It's they who are beaten.

HOBSON. I'd take a good few beatings myself at the price, Vickey. Still,
I want this keeping out of court.

ALBERT. Then we can take it as settled?

HOBSON. Do you want to see the money before you believe me? Is that your
nasty lawyer's way?

ALBERT. Not at all, Mr. Hobson. Your word is as good as your bond.
(_Moves back_ L.)

VICKEY. It's settled! It's settled! Hurrah! Hurrah! (_Moves_ L. _to_
FREDDY.)

HOBSON. Well, I don't see what you have to cheer about, Vickey. I'm not
to be dragged to public scorn, but you know this is a tidy bit of money
to be going out of the family. (_Sits sofa_, R. C.)

MAGGIE. It's not going out of the family, father. (_Moves up_ R.)

HOBSON. I don't see how you make it out.

MAGGIE. Their wedding-day is not so far off as you thought, now there's
the half of five hundred pounds apiece for them to make a start on.

(ALBERT _and_ ALICE, FRED _and_ VICKEY _stand arm in arm_, L.) HOBSON.
You mean to tell me--

MAGGIE. You won't forget you've passed your word, will you father?

HOBSON (_rising_). I've been diddled. (_Moves_ C.) It's a plant. It--

MAGGIE. It takes two daughters off your hands at once, and clears your
shop of all the fools of women that used to lumber up the place.

ALICE. It will be much easier for you without us in your way, father.

HOBSON. Aye, and you can keep out of my way and all. Do you hear that,
all of you?

VICKEY. Father...!

HOBSON (_picking up his hat_). I'll run that shop with men and--and I'll
show Salford how it should be run. Don't you imagine there'll be room
for you when you come home crying and tired of your fine husbands. I'm
rid of ye, and it's a lasting riddance, mind. I'll pay this money,
that you've robbed me of, and that's the end of it. All of you. You,
especially, Maggie. I'm not blind yet, and I can see who 'tis I've got
to thank for this. (_He goes to foot of stairs_.)

MAGGIE. Don't be vicious, father.

HOBSON. Will Mossop, I'm sorry for you. (_Over banisters_.) Take you for
all in all, you're the best of the bunch. You're a backward lad, but you
know your trade and it's an honest one.

(HOBSON _is going up the stairs_.)

ALICE. So does my Albert know his trade. (_Goes_ R. C.)

HOBSON (_half-way up-stairs_). I'll grant you that. He knows his trade.
He's good at robbery. (ALICE _shows great indignation_.) And I've to
have it on my conscience that my daughter's wed a lawyer and an employer
of lawyers.

VICKEY. It didn't worry your conscience to keep us serving in the shop
at no wages.

HOBSON. I kept you, didn't I? It's some one else's job to victual you
in future. Aye, you may grin, you two, but girls don't live on air. Your
penny buns 'ull cost you tuppence now--and more. Wait, till the families
begin to come. Don't come to me for keep, that's all. (_Going_.)

ALICE. Father!

HOBSON (_turning_). Aye. You may father me. But that's a piece of work
I've finished with. I've done with fathering, and they're beginning it.
They'll know what marrying a woman means before so long. They're putting
chains upon themselves and I have thrown the shackles off. I've suffered
thirty years and more and I'm a free man from to-day. Lord, what a thing
you're taking on! You poor, poor wretches. You're red-nosed robbers, but
you're going to pay for it.

(_He opens door and exits_ R.)

MAGGIE (_coming_ C.). You'd better arrange to get married quick. Alice
and Vickey will have a sweet time with him.

FREDDY. Can they go home at all!

MAGGIE. Why not?

FREDDY. After what he said?

MAGGIE. He'll not remember half of it. He's for the "Moonraker's"
now--if there's time. What is the time?

ALBERT. Time we were going, Maggie--(_going to her_, C.);--you'll be
glad to see the back of us. (_He shows_ MAGGIE _his watch_.)

WILLIE. No. No. (_Rising_.) I wouldn't dream of asking you to go.

MAGGIE (_moving up to get hats_). Then I would. It's high time we turned
you out. There are your hats.

(_She gets_ ALBERT'S _and_ FRED'S _hats from rack_, R.)

Good night.

(ALBERT _and_ FREDDY _go upstairs_. MAGGIE _comes back_, C.)

Good night, Vickey.

VICKEY (_with a quick kiss_). Good night, Maggie.

(VICKEY _goes upstairs. She and_ FREDDY _go out_.)

MAGGIE. Good night, Alice.

ALICE. Good night, Maggie. (_The same quick kiss_.) And thank you.

MAGGIE. Oh, that! (_She goes with her to stairs_.) I'll see you again
soon, only don't come round here too much, because Will and me's going
to be busy and you'll maybe find enough to do yourselves with getting
wed.

ALICE. I dare say. (_Upstairs_.)

(_The general exit is continuous, punctuated with laughter and merry
"Good nights!"_)

MAGGIE. Send us word when the day is.

ALBERT. We'll be glad to see you at the wedding.

MAGGIE. We'll come to that. You'll be too grand for us afterwards.

ALBERT. Oh, no, Maggie.

MAGGIE. Well, happen we'll be catching up with you before so long. We're
only starting here. Good night.

ALBERT & ALICE Good night, Maggie.

(_They go out, closing door_. MAGGIE _turns to_ WILL, _putting her hands
on his shoulders. He starts_.)

MAGGIE. Now you've heard what I've said of you to-night. In twenty years
you're going to be thought more of than either of your brothers-in-law.

WILLIE. I heard you say it, Maggie.

MAGGIE. And we're to make it good. I'm not a boaster, Will. And it's to
be in less than twenty years, and all.

WILLIE. Well, I dunno. They've a long start on us.

MAGGIE. And you've got me. Your slate's in the bedroom. Bring it out.
I'll have this table clear by the time you come back.

(_She moves round to_ R. _of table and hustles off the last remains of
the meal, putting the flowers on the mantel and takes off cloth, placing
it over the back of the chair_, R. WILL _goes to bedroom and returns
with a slate and slate pencil. The slate is covered with writing. He
puts it on table_.)

MAGGIE. Off with your Sunday coat now. You don't want to make a mess of
that.

(_He takes coat off and gets rag from behind screen and brings it back
to table. He hangs his coat on a peg_, R.)

What are you doing with that mopping rag?

WILLIE. I was going to wash out what's on the slate.

MAGGIE. Let me see it first. That's what you did last night at Tubby's
after I came here?

WILLIE. Yes, Maggie.

MAGGIE (_sitting at table up_ R. C., _reading_). "There is always room
at the top." (_Washing it out_.) Your writing's improving, Will. I'll
set you a short copy for to-night, because it's getting late and we've
a lot to do in the morning. (_Writing_.) "Great things grow from small."
Now, then, you can sit down here and copy that!

(_He takes her place at the table_. MAGGIE _watches a moment, then goes
to fire-place and fingers the flowers_.)

I'll put these flowers of Mrs. Hepworth's behind the fire, Will. We'll
not want litter in the place come working time to-morrow.

(_She takes up basin, stops, looks at_ WILL, _who is bent over his
slate, and takes a flower out, throwing the rest behind the fire and
going to bedroom with the one_.)

WILLIE (_looking up_). You're saving one.

MAGGIE (_caught in an act of sentiment and apologetically_). I thought
I'd press it in my Bible for a keepsake, Will. I'm not beyond liking to
be reminded of this day.

(_She looks at screen and yawns_.)

Lord, I'm tired. I reckon I'll leave those pots till morning. It's a
slackish way of starting, but I don't get married every day.

WILLIE (_industrious at his slate_). No.

MAGGIE. I'm for my bed. You finish that copy before you come.

WILLIE. Yes, Maggie.

(_Exit_ MAGGIE _to bedroom, with the flower. She closes door_. WILL
_copies, repeats letters and words as he writes them slowly, finishes,
then rises and rakes out fire. He looks shyly at bedroom door, sits
and takes his boots off. He rises, boots in hand, moves towards door,
hesitates, and turns back, puts boots down at door, then returns to
table and takes off his collar. Then hesitates again, finally makes up
his mind, puts out light, and lies down on sofa with occasional glances
at the bedroom door. At first he faces the fire. He is uncomfortable.
He turns over and faces the door. In a minute_ MAGGIE _opens the bedroom
door. She has a candle and is in a plain calico night-dress. She comes
to_ WILL, _shines the light on him, takes him by the ear, and returns
with him to bedroom_).

CURTAIN.

[Illustration.] Red papered chamber of an old-fashioned design.
Antimacassars on chairs. All sorts of china ornaments. Dogs, vases,
artificial flowers, lace curtains on window, books, boot boxes, cushions
with lace covers, fire lit. Gas brackets each side of mantelpiece. Old
pictures, velvet-framed views.



ACT IV

_The scene represents_ HOBSON'S _living-room, the door to which was seen
in Act I. From inside the room that door is now seen to be at the left,
the opposite wall having the fire-place and another door to the house.

It is eight o'clock on a morning a year later.

In front of the fire-place is a horsehair arm-chair. Chairs to match are
at the table. There are coloured prints of Queen Victoria and the Prince
Consort on the walls on each side of the door at the back, and a plain
one of Lord Beaconsfield over the fire-place. Antimacassars abound, and
the decoration is quaintly ugly. It is an overcrowded, "cosy" room_.
HOBSON _is quite contented with it, and doesn't realize that it is at
present very dirty.

There is probably a kitchen elsewhere, but_ TUBBY WADLOW _is cooking
bacon at the fire. He is simultaneously laying breakfast for one on
the table. At both proceedings he is a puzzled and incompetent amateur.
Presently the left door opens, and_ JIM HEELER _appears_.

JIM (_crossing_). I'll go straight up to him, Tubby.

TUBBY (_checking him_). He's getting up, Mr. Heeler.

JIM. Getting up! Why, you said--

TUBBY. I told you what he told me to tell you. Run for Doctor
MacFarlane, he said. And I ran for Doctor MacFarlane. Now go to Mr.
Heeler, he said, and tell him I'm very ill, and I came and told you.
Then he said he would get up, and I was to have his breakfast ready for
him, and he'd see you down here. (_Goes to fire_, R.)

JIM (_moving towards door up_ R.). Nonsense, Tubby. Of course, I'll go
up to him.

TUBBY. You know what he is, sir. I'll get blamed if you go, and he's
short-tempered this morning.

JIM. I don't want to get you into trouble, Tubby. (_He sits_ R. _of
table_.)

TUBBY. Thank you, Mr. Heeler. (_Puts bacon on plate and plate down on
the hearth_.)

JIM. I quite thought it was something serious.

TUBBY. If you ask me, it is. (_Coming back to table_.)

JIM. Which way?

TUBBY (_cutting bread_). Every way you look at it. Mr. Hobson's not his
own old self, and the shop's not its own old self, and look at me. Now
I ask you, Mr. Heeler, man to man, is this work for a foreman shoe hand?
Cooking and laying tables and--

JIM. By all accounts there's not much else for you to do.

TUBBY. There's better things than being a housemaid, if it's only making
clogs. (_Crosses to fire to toast_.)

JIM. They tell me clogs are a cut line.

TUBBY. Well, what are you to do? There's nothing else wanted. (_Turns_.)
Hobson's in a bad way, and I'm telling no secret when I say it. It's a
fact that's known.

JIM. It's a thousand pities with an old-established trade like this.

TUBBY. And who's to blame?

JIM. I don't think you ought to discuss that with me, Tubby.

TUBBY. Don't you? I'm an old servant of the master's, and I'm sticking
to him now when everybody's calling me a doting fool because I don't
look after Tubby Wadlow first, and if that don't give me the right to
say what I please, I don't know. It's temper's ruining this shop, Mr.
Heeler. Temper and obstinacy.

JIM. They say in Chapel Street it's Willie Mossop.

TUBBY. Willie's a good lad, though I say it that trained him. He hit us
hard, did Willie, but we'd have got round that in time. With care, you
understand, and tact. Tact. That's what the gaffer lacks. Miss Maggie,
now ... well, she's a marvel, aye, a fair knock-out. Not slavish, mind
you. Stood up to the customers all the time, but she'd a way with her
that sold the goods and made them come again for more. Look at us now.
Men assistants in the shop.

JIM. Cost more than women.

TUBBY. Cost? They'd be dear at any price. Look here, Mr. Heeler, take
yourself. When you go to buy a pair of boots do you like to be tried on
by a man or a nice soft young woman?

JIM. Well--

TUBBY. There you are. Stands to reason. It's human nature.

JIM. But there are two sides to that, Tubby. Look at the other.

TUBBY. Ladies?

JIM. Yes.

TUBBY. Ladies that are ladies wants trying on by their own sex, and
them that aren't buys clogs. It's the good-class trade that pays, and
Hobson's have lost it.

(_Enter_ HOBSON _up_ R., _unshaven, without collar. He comes down stage
between them_.)

JIM (_with cheerful sympathy_). Well, Henry!

HOBSON (_with acute melancholy and self-pity_). Oh, Jim! Oh, Jim! Oh,
Jim!

TUBBY. Will you sit on the arm-chair by the fire or at the table?

HOBSON. The table? Breakfast? Bacon? Bacon, and I'm like this.

(JIM _assists him to arm-chair_.)

JIM. When a man's like this he wants a woman about the house, Henry.

HOBSON (_sitting_). I'll want then.

TUBBY. Shall I go for Miss Maggie, sir?--Mrs. Mossop, I mean.

JIM. I think your daughters should be here.

HOBSON. They should. Only they're not. They're married, and I'm deserted
by them all and I'll die deserted, then perhaps they'll be sorry for the
way they've treated me. Tubby, have you got no work to do in the shop?

TUBBY. I might find some if I looked hard.

HOBSON. Then go and look. And take that bacon with you. I don't like the
smell.

TUBBY (_getting bacon_). Are you sure you wouldn't like Miss Maggie
here? I'll go for her and--(_He holds the bacon very close to_ HOBSON'S
_face_.)

HOBSON. Oh, go for her. Go for the devil. What does it matter who you go
for? I'm a dying man.

(TUBBY _takes bacon and goes out_ L.)

JIM. What's all this talk about dying, Henry?

HOBSON. Oh, Jim! Oh, Jim! I've sent for the doctor. We'll know soon how
near the end is.

JIM. Well, this is very sudden. (_Sits chair,_ R.) You've never been ill
in your life.

HOBSON. It's been saved up, and all come now at once.

JIM. What are your symptoms, Henry?

HOBSON. I'm all one symptom, head to foot. I'm frightened of myself,
Jim. That's worst. You would call me a clean man, Jim?

JIM. Clean? Of course I would. Clean in body and mind.

HOBSON. I'm dirty now. I haven't washed this morning. Couldn't face the
water. The only use I saw for water was to drown myself. The same with
shaving. I've thrown my razor through the window. Had to or I'd have cut
my throat.

JIM. Oh, come, come.

HOBSON. It's awful. I'll never trust myself again. I'm going to grow a
beard--if I live.

JIM. You'll cheat the undertaker, Henry, but I fancy a doctor could
improve you. What do you reckon is the cause of it now?

HOBSON. "Moonraker's."

JIM. You don't think--

HOBSON. I don't think. I know. I've seen it happen to others, but I
never thought that it would come to me.

JIM. Nor me, neither. You're not a toper, Henry. I grant you're regular,
but you don't exceed. It's a hard thing if a man can't take a drop of
ale without its getting back at him like this. Why, it might be my turn
next.

(TUBBY _enters_ L., _showing in_ DOCTOR MACFARLANE, _a domineering
Scotsman of fifty_.)

TUBBY. Here's Doctor MacFarlane. (_Exit_ TUBBY.)

DOCTOR. Good morning, gentlemen. Where's my patient? (_He puts hat on
table_.)

JIM (_speaking without indicating_ HOBSON). Here. (_He does not rise_.)

DOCTOR. Here? Up?

HOBSON. Looks like it.

DOCTOR. And for a patient who's downstairs I'm made to rise from my bed
at this hour?

JIM. It's not so early as all that.

DOCTOR. But I've been up all night, sir. Young woman with her first. Are
you Mr. Hobson?

JIM (_quickly_). Certainly not. I'm not ill.

DOCTOR. Hum. Not much to choose between you. You've both got your fate
written on your faces.

JIM. Do you mean that I--? (_Rises_.)

DOCTOR. I mean he has and you will.

HOBSON. Doctor, will you attend to me?

(JIM _moves round_ HOBSON'S _arm-chair to up stage and then to_ L. _of
table_.)

DOCTOR. Yes. Now, sir. (_He sits by him and holds his wrist_.)

HOBSON. I've never been in a bad way before this morning. Never wanted a
doctor in my life.

DOCTOR. You've needed. But you've not sent.

HOBSON. But this morning--

DOCTOR. I ken--well.

HOBSON. What! You know!

DOCTOR. Any fool would ken.

HOBSON. Eh?

DOCTOR. Any fool but one fool and that's yourself.

HOBSON. You're damned polite.

DOCTOR. If ye want flattery, I dare say ye can get it from your friend.
I'm giving you ma medical opinion.

HOBSON. I want your opinion on my complaint, not on my character.

DOCTOR. Your complaint and your character are the same.

HOBSON. Then you'll kindly separate them and you'll tell me--

DOCTOR (_rising and taking up hat_). I'll tell you nothing, sir. I don't
diagnose as my patients wish, but as my intellect and sagacity direct.
Good morning to you. (_Turns_ L.)

JIM (_meeting him below table_). But you have not diagnosed.

DOCTOR. Sir, if I am to interview a patient in the presence of a third
party, the least that third party can do is to keep his mouth shut.

JIM. After that, there's only one thing for it. He shifts or I do.

HOBSON. You'd better go, Jim.

JIM. There are other doctors, Henry.

HOBSON. I'll keep this one. I've got to teach him a lesson. Scotchmen
can't come over Salford lads this road.

JIM. If that's it, I'll leave you.

HOBSON. That's it. I can bully as well as a foreigner.

(JIM _goes out_ L.)

DOCTOR. That's better, Mr. Hobson. (_He puts hat down and comes back_
R.)

HOBSON. If I'm better, you've not had much to do with it.

DOCTOR. I think my calculated rudeness--

HOBSON. If you calculate your fees at the same rate as your rudeness,
they'll be high.

DOCTOR. I calculate by time, Mr. Hobson, so we'd better get to business.
Will you unbutton your shirt?

HOBSON (_doing it_). No hanky-panky now.

DOCTOR (_ignoring his remark and examining_). Aye. It just confirms ma
first opinion. Ye've had a breakdown this A.M.?

HOBSON. You might say so.

DOCTOR. Melancholic? Depressed?

HOBSON (_buttoning shirt_). Question was whether the razor would beat
me, or I'd beat razor. I won, that time. The razor's in the yard. But
I'll never dare to try shaving myself again.

DOCTOR. And do you seriously require me to tell you the cause, Mr.
Hobson?

HOBSON. I'm paying thee brass to tell me.

DOCTOR. Chronic alcoholism, if you know that what means.

HOBSON. Aye.

DOCTOR. A serious case.

HOBSON. I know it's serious. What do you think you're here for? It isn't
to tell me something I know already. It's to cure me.

DOCTOR. Very well. I will write you a prescription. (_Produces notebook.
Sits at table and writes with copying pencil_.)

HOBSON. Stop that!

DOCTOR. I beg your pardon?

HOBSON. I won't take it. None of your druggist's muck for me. I'm
particular about what I put into my stomach.

DOCTOR. Mr. Hobson, if you don't mend your manners, I'll certify you for
a lunatic asylum. Are you aware that you've drunk yourself within six
months of the grave? You'd a warning this morning that any sane man
would listen to and you're going to listen to it, sir.

HOBSON. By taking your prescription?

DOCTOR. Precisely. You will take this mixture, Mr. Hobson, and you will
practise total abstinence for the future.

HOBSON. You ask me to give up my reasonable refreshment!

DOCTOR. I forbid alcohol absolutely. (_Starts writing_.)

HOBSON. Much use your forbidding is. I've had my liquor for as long as I
remember, and I'll have it to the end. If I'm to be beaten by beer I'll
die fighting, and I'm none practising unnatural teetotalism for the sake
of lengthening out my unalcoholic days. Life's got to be worth living
before I'll live it.

DOCTOR (_rising and taking hat again_). If that's the way you talk, my
services are of no use to you. (_Moves down_ L.)

HOBSON. They're not. I'll pay you on the nail for this. (_Rising and
sorting money from pocket_.)

DOCTOR. I congratulate you on the impulse, Mr. Hobson.

HOBSON. Nay, it's a fair deal, doctor. I've had value. You've been a
tonic to me. When I got up I never thought to see the "Moonraker's"
again, but I'm ready for my early morning draught this minute. (_Holds
out money_.)

DOCTOR (_putting hat down, moving to_ HOBSON _and talking earnestly_).
Man, will ye no be warned? Ye pig-headed animal, alcohol is poison to
ye, deadly, virulent with a system in the state yours is.

HOBSON. You're getting warm about it. Will you take your fee? (_Holding
out money_.)

DOCTOR. Yes. When I've earned it. Put it in your pocket, Mr. Hobson. I
hae na finished with ye yet.

HOBSON. I thought you had. (_Sits again_.)

DOCTOR (_up to_ HOBSON, R.). Do ye ken that ye're defying me? Ye'll die
fighting, will ye? Aye, it's a gay, high-sounding sentiment, ma mannie,
but ye'll no dae it, do ye hear? Ye'll no slip from me now. I've got
ma grip on ye. Ye'll die sober, and ye'll live the longest time ye can
before ye die. Have ye a wife, Mr. Hobson?

(HOBSON _points upwards_.)

In bed?

HOBSON. Higher than that.

DOCTOR. It's a pity. A man like you should keep a wife handy.

HOBSON. I'm not so partial to women.

DOCTOR. Women are a necessity, sir. Have ye no female relative that can
manage ye?

HOBSON. Manage?

DOCTOR. Keep her thumb firm on ye?

HOBSON. I've got three daughters, Doctor MacFarlane, and they tried to
keep their thumbs on me.

DOCTOR. Well? Where are they?

HOBSON. Married--and queerly married.

DOCTOR. You drove them to it.

HOBSON. They all grew uppish. Maggie worst of all.

DOCTOR. Maggie? Then I'll tell ye what ye'll do, Mr. Hobson. You will
get Maggie back. At any price. At all costs to your pride, as your
medical man I order you to get Maggie back. (_Movement from_ HOBSON.) I
don't know Maggie, but I prescribe her, and--damn ye, sir, are ye going
to defy me again?

HOBSON. I tell you I won't have it.

DOCTOR. You'll have to have it. You're a dunderheaded lump of obstinacy,
but I've taken a fancy to ye and I decline to let ye kill yeself.

HOBSON. I've escaped from the thraldom of women once, and--

DOCTOR. And a pretty mess you've made of your liberty. Now this Maggie
ye mention--if ye'll tell me where she's to be found, I'll just step
round and have a crack with her maself, for I've gone beyond the sparing
of a bit of trouble over ye.

HOBSON. You'll waste your time.

DOCTOR. I'll cure you, Mr. Hobson. (_Crosses to_ C. _and turns_.)

HOBSON. She won't come back.

DOCTOR. Oh. Now that's a possibility. If she's a sensible body I concur
with your opinion she'll no come back, but women are a soft-hearted race
and she'll maybe take pity on ye after all.

HOBSON. I want no pity.

DOCTOR. If she's the woman that I take her for ye'll get no pity. Ye'll
get discipline.

(HOBSON _rises and tries to speak_.)

Don't interrupt me, sir. I'm talking.

HOBSON. I've noticed it. (_Sits_.)

DOCTOR. You asked me for a cure, and Maggie's the name of the cure you
need. Maggie, sir, do you hear? Maggie!

(_Enter_ MAGGIE L., _in outdoor clothes_.)

MAGGIE. What about me?

DOCTOR (_staggered, then_). Are you Maggie?

MAGGIE. I'm Maggie.

DOCTOR. Ye'll do.

HOBSON (_getting his breath_). What are you doing under my roof?

MAGGIE. I've come because I was fetched. (_Coming_ C.)

HOBSON. Who fetched you?

MAGGIE. Tubby Wadlow.

HOBSON (_rising_). Tubby can quit my shop this minute.

DOCTOR (_putting him back_). Sit down, Mr. Hobson.

MAGGIE. He said you're dangerously ill.

DOCTOR. He is. I'm Doctor MacFarlane. (_Coming_ C.) Will you come and
live here again?

MAGGIE. I'm married.

DOCTOR. I know that, Mrs.--

MAGGIE. Mossop.

DOCTOR. Your father's drinking himself to death, Mrs. Mossop.

HOBSON. Look here, Doctor, what's passed between you and me isn't for
everybody's ears.

DOCTOR. I judge your daughter's not the sort to want the truth wrapped
round with a feather-bed for fear it hits her hard.

MAGGIE (_nodding appreciatively_). Go on. I'd like to hear it all.
(_Goes to and sits in chair_ R. _of table_.)

HOBSON. Just nasty-minded curiosity.

DOCTOR. I don't agree with you, Mr. Hobson. If Mrs. Mossop is to
sacrifice her own home to come to you, she's every right to know the
reason why.

HOBSON. Sacrifice! If you saw her home you'd find another word than
that. Two cellars in Oldfield Road.

MAGGIE. I'm waiting, Doctor.

DOCTOR. I've a constitutional objection to seeing patients slip through
ma fingers when it's avoidable, Mrs. Mossop, and I'll do ma best for
your father, but ma medicine will na do him any good without your
medicine to back me up. He needs a tight hand on him all the time.

MAGGIE. I've not same chance I had before I married.

DOCTOR. Ye'll have no chance at all unless ye come and live here. I
willna talk about the duty of a daughter because I doubt he's acted
badly by ye, but on the broad grounds of humanity, it's saving life if
ye'll come--

MAGGIE. I might.

DOCTOR. Nay, but will ye?

MAGGIE. You've told me what you think. The rest's my business. (_Rises
and goes_ L.)

HOBSON. That's right, Maggie. (_To_ DOCTOR.) That's what you get for
interfering with folks' private affairs. So now you can go, with your
tail between your legs, Doctor MacFarlane.

DOCTOR. On the contrary, I am going, Mr. Hobson, with the profound
conviction that I leave you in excellent hands. (R. _of table_.) One
prescription is on the table, Mrs. Mossop. The other two are total
abstinence and--you.

MAGGIE (_nodding amiably_). Good morning.

DOCTOR. Good morning.

(_Exit_ DOCTOR L. MAGGIE _picks up prescription and follows to door_,
L.) MAGGIE. Tubby!

(_She stands by door_, TUBBY _just enters inside it_.)

Go round to Oldfield Road and ask my husband to come here and get this
made up at Hallow's on your way back.

TUBBY. Yes, Miss--Mrs. Mossop.

MAGGIE. Tell Mr. Mossop that I want him quick.

(TUBBY _nods and goes_. MAGGIE _goes_ R.)

HOBSON. Maggie, you know I can't be an abstainer. A man of my habits. At
my time of life.

MAGGIE. You can if I come here to make you.

HOBSON. Are you coming?

MAGGIE. I don't know yet. I haven't asked my husband.

HOBSON. You ask Will Mossop! Maggie, I'd better thoughts of you. Making
an excuse like that to me. If you want to come you'll come so what Will
Mossop says and well you know it.

MAGGIE. I don't want to come, father. I expect no holiday existence here
with you to keep in health. But if Will tells me it's my duty I shall
come. (_Sits_ R. _of table_.)

HOBSON. You know as well as I do asking Will's a matter of form.

MAGGIE. Matter of form! (_Rises and moves_ R.) My husband a matter of
form! He's the--

HOBSON. I dare say, but he is not the man that wears the breeches at
your house.

MAGGIE. My husband's my husband, father, so whatever else he is. And
my home's my home, and all and what you said of it now to Doctor
MacFarlane's a thing you'll pay for. It's no gift to a married woman to
come back to the home she's shut of. (_Moves back_ R. C.)

HOBSON. Look here, Maggie, you're talking straight and I'll talk
straight and all. When I'm set I'm set. You're coming here. I didn't
want you when that doctor said it, but, by gum, I want you now. It's
been my daughters' hobby crossing me. Now you'll come and look after me.

MAGGIE. All of us?

HOBSON. No. Not all of you. You're eldest.

MAGGIE. There's another man with claims on me.

HOBSON. I'll give him claims. Aren't I your father?

(ALICE _enters_ L. _She is rather elaborately dressed for so early in
the day, and languidly haughty_.)

MAGGIE. And I'm not your only daughter.

ALICE. You been here long, Maggie?

MAGGIE. A while.

ALICE (L.C.). Ah, well, a fashionable solicitor's wife doesn't rise so
early as the wife of a working cobbler. You'd be up when Tubby came.

MAGGIE. A couple of hours earlier. (_Moves up_ R.)

ALICE (_going to_ HOBSON). You're looking all right, father. You've
quite a colour.

HOBSON. I'm very ill.

MAGGIE (_sitting_ R. _of table_). He's not so well, Alice. The doctor
says one of us must come and live here to look after him.

ALICE. I live in the Crescent myself.

MAGGIE. I've heard it was that way on. Somebody's home will have to go.

ALICE. I don't think I can be expected to come back to this after what
I've been used to lately.

HOBSON. Alice!

ALICE. Well, I say it ought to be Maggie, father. She's the eldest.
(_Moves to above table_.)

HOBSON. And I say you're--

(_What she is we don't learn, as_ VICKEY _enters effectively and goes
effusively to_ HOBSON, R. ALICE _moves round to_ L.)

VICKEY. Father, you're ill! (_Embracing him_.)

HOBSON. Vickey! My baby! At last I find a daughter who cares for me.

VICKEY. Of course I care. Don't the others? (_Releasing herself from his
grasp_.)

HOBSON. You will live with me, Vickey, won't you?

VICKEY. What? (_She stands away from him_.)

MAGGIE. One of us is needed to look after him.

VICKEY. Oh, but it can't be me. In my circumstances, Maggie!

MAGGIE. What circumstances?

ALICE. Don't you know?

MAGGIE. No.

(VICKEY _whispers to_ MAGGIE.)

HOBSON. What's the matter? What are you all whispering about?

MAGGIE. Father, don't you think you ought to put a collar on before Will
comes? (_Goes to him_, R.)

HOBSON. Put a collar on for Will Mossop? There's something wrong with
your sense of proportion, my girl.

VICKEY (_moving_ C.). You're always pretending to folk about your
husband, Maggie, but you needn't keep it up with us. We know Will here.

MAGGIE. Father, either I can go home or you can go and put a collar on
for Will. I'll have him treated with respect. (_Going up to window_.)

ALICE. I expect you'd put a collar on in any case, father.

HOBSON (_rising_). Of course I should. I'm going to put a collar on.
But understand me, Maggie, it's not for the sake of Will Mossop. It's
because my neck is cold.

(_Exit_ HOBSON R.)

MAGGIE (_coming down_). Now, then, which of us is it to be?

VICKEY. It's no use looking at me like that, Maggie. I've told you I'm
expecting.

MAGGIE. I don't see that that rules you out. It might happen to any of
us.

ALICE. Maggie!

MAGGIE. What's the matter? Children do happen to married women, and
we're all married.

ALICE. Well, I'm not going to break my home up and that's flat.

VICKEY. My child comes first with me.

MAGGIE. I see. You've got a house of furniture, and you've got a child
coming, so father can drink himself to death for you.

ALICE. That's not fair speaking. I'd come if there were no one else. You
know very well it's your duty, Maggie.

VICKEY. Duty? I should think it 'ud be a pleasure to live here after a
year of two cellars.

MAGGIE. I've had thirty years of the pleasure of living with father,
thanks. (_Going to chair_ R. _of table and sitting_.)

ALICE. Do you mean to say you won't come?

MAGGIE. It isn't for me to say at all. It's for my husband.

VICKEY. Oh, do stop talking about your husband. If Alice and I don't
need to ask our husbands, I'm sure you never need ask yours. Will Mossop
hasn't the spirit of a louse and we know it as well as you do. (_Crosses
to fire-place_.)

MAGGIE. Maybe Will's come on since you saw him, Vickey. It's getting a
while ago. There he is now in the shop. I'll go and put it to him.

(_Rises and exits_ MAGGIE L.)

VICKEY. Stop her! (_Going to door_.)

ALICE (_detaining her_). Let her do it in her own way. I'm not coming
back here.

VICKEY (R. _of_ ALICE). Nor me.

ALICE. There's only Maggie for it.

VICKEY. Yes. But we've got to be careful, Alice. She mustn't have things
too much her way.

ALICE. It's our way as well, isn't it?

VICKEY. Not coming is our way. But when she's with him alone and we're
not--(_Stopping_.)

ALICE. Yes.

VICKEY. Can't you see what I'm thinking, Alice? It is so difficult to
say. Suppose poor father gets worse and they are here, Maggie and Will,
and you and I--out of sight and out of mind. Can't you see what I mean?

ALICE. He might leave them his money!

VICKEY. That would be most unfair to us.

ALICE. Father must make his will at once. Albert shall draw it up.
(_Goes_ R.)

VICKEY. That's it, Alice. And don't let's leave Maggie too long with
Will. She's only telling him what to say, and then she'll pretend he
thought of it himself. (_She opens door left_.) Why, Will, what are you
doing up the ladder?

WILLIE (_off_ L). I'm looking over the stock.

VICKEY (_indignantly_). It's father's stock, not yours.

WILLIE. That's so. But if I'm to come into a thing I like to know what
I'm coming into.

ALICE. That's never Willie Mossop.

VICKEY (_still by door_). Are you coming into this?

(WILL _enters_ L. MAGGIE _follows him. He is not aggressive, but he is
prosperous and has self-confidence. Against_ ALICE _and_ VICKEY _he is
consciously on his mettle_.)

WILLIE. That's the proposal, isn't it?

VICKEY (C.). I didn't know it was.

WILLIE. Now, then, Maggie, go and bring your father down and be sharp.
I'm busy at my shop, so what they are at his.

(MAGGIE _takes_ WILL'S _hat off and puts it on settee, then exits up_
R.)

It's been a good business in its day, too, has Hobson's.

ALICE. What on earth do you mean? It's a good business still.

WILLIE. You try to sell it, and you'd learn. Stock and goodwill 'ud
fetch about two hundred. (_Goes_ C.)

VICKEY. Don't talk so foolish, Will. Two hundred for a business like
father's!

WILLIE. Two hundred as it is. Not as it was in our time, Vickey.

ALICE. Do you mean to tell me father isn't rich?

WILLIE. If you'd not married into the law you'd know what they think
of your father to-day in trading circles. Vickey ought to know. Her
husband's in trade.

VICKEY (_indignantly_). My Fred in trade!

WILLIE. Isn't he?

VICKEY. He's in the wholesale. That's business, not trade. And the value
of father's shop is no affair of yours, Will Mossop. (_Moves_ L.)

WILLIE. Now I thought maybe it was. If Maggie and me are coming here--

VICKEY. You're coming to look after father.

WILLIE. Maggie can do that with one hand tied behind her back. I'll look
after the business.

ALICE. You'll do what's arranged for you.

WILLIE. I'll do the arranging, Alice. If we come here, we come here on
my terms.

VICKEY. They'll be fair terms.

WILLIE. I'll see they're fair to me and Maggie. (_Goes_ R.)

ALICE. Will Mossop, do you know who you're talking to?

WILLIE (_turning_). Aye. My wife's young sisters. Times have changed a
bit since you used to order me about this shop, haven't they, Alice?

ALICE. Yes. I'm Mrs. Albert Prosser now.

WILLIE. So you are, to outsiders. And you'd be surprised the number of
people that call me Mr. Mossop now. We do get on in the world, don't we?
(ALICE _moves up stage_.)

VICKEY. Some folks get on too fast.

WILLIE. It's a matter of opinion. (_Coming_ C.) I know Maggie and me
gave both of you a big leg up when we arranged your marriage portions,
but I dunno that we're grudging you the sudden lift you got.

(_Enter_ HOBSON _and_ MAGGIE.)

WILLIE. Good morning, father. I'm sorry to hear you're not so well.

HOBSON. I'm a changed man, Will. (_He comes down and sits on arm-chair_,
R.)

WILLIE. There used to be room for improvement.

HOBSON. What! (_He starts up_.)

MAGGIE. Sit down, father.

WILLIE (_sitting_ R. _of table_). Aye. Don't let us be too long about
this. You've kept me waiting now a good while and my time's valuable.
I'm busy at my shop.

HOBSON. Is your shop more important than my life?

WILLIE. That's a bit like asking if a pound of tea weighs heavier than
a pound of lead. I'm worrited about your life because it worrits Maggie,
but I'm none worrited that bad I'll see my business suffer for the sake
of you.

HOBSON. This isn't what I've a right to expect from you, Will.

WILLIE. You've no _right_ to expect I care whether you sink or swim.

MAGGIE. Will!

WILLIE. What's to do? You told me to take a high hand, didn't you?

(MAGGIE _sits down_ R.)

ALICE. And we're to stay here and watch Maggie and Will abusing father
when he's ill.

(_Positions now_: MAGGIE _sitting down_ R., HOBSON _sitting in
armchair_, ALICE _standing behind and between them_, VICKEY _standing_
L. _of table_.)

WILLIE. No need for you to stay.

HOBSON. That's a true word, Will Mossop.

VICKEY. Father! You take his side against your flesh and blood.

HOBSON. That doesn't come too well from you, my girl. Neither of you
would leave your homes to come to care for me. You're not for me, so
you're against me.

ALICE. We're not against you, father. We want to stay and see that Will
deals fairly by you.

HOBSON. Oh, I'm not capable of looking after myself, amn't I? I've to be
protected by you girls lest I'm overreached, and overreached by whom? By
Willie Mossop! I may be ailing, but I've fight enough left in me for a
dozen such as him, and if you're thinking that the manhood's gone from
me, you can go and think it somewhere else than in my house.

VICKEY. But father--dear father--

HOBSON. I'm not so dear to you if you'd to think twice about coming here
to do for me, let alone jibbing at it the way you did. A proper daughter
would have jumped--aye, skipped like a calf by the cedars of Lebanon--at
the thought of being helpful to her father.

ALICE. Did Maggie skip?

HOBSON. She's a bit ancient for skipping exercise, is Maggie; but she's
coming round to reconcilement with the thought of living here, and that
is more than you are doing, Alice, isn't it? Eh? Are you willing to
come?

ALICE (_sullenly_). No.

HOBSON. Or you, Vickey?

VICKEY. It's my child, father. I--

HOBSON. Never mind what it is. Are you coming or not?

VICKEY. No.

HOBSON. Then you that aren't willing can leave me to talk with them that
are.

ALICE. Do you mean that we're to go?

HOBSON. I understand you've homes to go to.

ALICE. Oh, father!

HOBSON. Open the door for them, Will.

(WILL _rises, crosses, and opens door_. ALICE _and_ VICKEY _stare in
silent anger. Then_ ALICE _sweeps to her gloves on the table_.)

ALICE. Vickey!

(ALICE _moves on towards door_.)

VICKEY. Well, I don't know!

MAGGIE (_from her chair by the fire-place_). We'll be glad to see you
here at tea-time on a Sunday afternoon if you'll condescend to come
sometimes.

VICKEY. Beggars on horseback.

(VICKEY _and_ ALICE _pass out_.)

WILL (_closing door_). Nay, come, there's no ill-will. (He _returns to
table and sits_ R. _of it_.)

HOBSON. Now, my lad, I'll tell you what I'll do.

WILLIE. Aye, we can come to grips better now there are no fine ladies
about.

HOBSON. They've got stiff necks with pride, and the difference between
you two and them's a thing I ought to mark and that I'm going to mark.
There's times for holding back and times for letting loose, and being
generous. Now, you're coming here, to this house, both of you, and you
can have the back bedroom for your own and the use of this room split
along with me. Maggie 'ull keep house, and if she's time to spare she
can lend a hand in the shop. I'm finding Will a job. You can come back
to your old bench in the cellar, Will, and I'll pay you the old wage
of eighteen shillings a week and you and me 'ull go equal whacks in the
cost of the housekeeping, and if that's not handsome, I dunno what is.
I'm finding you a house rent free and paying half the keep of your wife.

WILLIE. Come home, Maggie. (_He rises, goes_ L.)

MAGGIE. I think I'll have to. (_She rises_.)

HOBSON. Whatever's the hurry for?

WILLIE. It may be news to you--(_moving a little_ R.),--but I've a
business round in Oldfield Road and I'm neglecting it with wasting my
time here.

HOBSON. Wasting time? Maggie, what's the matter with Will? I've made him
a proposal.

MAGGIE. He's a shop of his own to see to, father.

HOBSON. (_incredulous_). A man who's offered a job at Hobson's doesn't
want to worry with a shop of his own in a wretched cellar in Oldfield
Road.

WILLIE. Shall I tell him, Maggie, or shall we go?

HOBSON. Go! I don't want to keep a man who--(_Rises_.)

MAGGIE. If he goes, I go with him, father. You'd better speak out, Will.

WILLIE. All right, I will. We've been a year in yon wretched cellar and
do you know what we've done? We've paid off Mrs. Hepworth what she lent
us for our start and made a bit o' brass on top o' that. We've got your
high-class trade away from you. That shop's a cellar, and as you say,
it's wretched, but they come to us in it, and they don't come to you.
Your trade's gone down till all you sell is clogs. You've got no trade,
and me and Maggie's got it all and now you're on your bended knees to
her to come and live with you, and all you think to offer me is my old
job at eighteen shillings a week. Me that's the owner of a business that
is starving yours to death.

HOBSON. But--but--you're Will Mossop, you're my old shoe hand.

WILLIE. Aye. I were, but I've moved on a bit since then. Your daughter
married me and set about my education. And--and now I'll tell you what
I'll do and it'll be the handsome thing and all from me to you. I'll
close my shop--

HOBSON. Oh! That doesn't sound like doing so well.

WILLIE. I'm doing well, but I'll do better here. I'll transfer to this
address and what I'll do that's generous is this: I'll take you into
partnership and give you your half-share on the condition you're
sleeping partner and you don't try interference on with me. (_Goes_ L.)

HOBSON. A partner! You--here--

WILLIE. William Mossop, late Hobson, is the name this shop 'ull have.

MAGGIE. Wait a bit, Will. I don't agree to that.

HOBSON (_over to her_). Oh, so you have piped up at last. I began to
think you'd both lost your senses together.

MAGGIE. It had better not be "late Hobson."

WILLIE (L. C.). Well, I meant it should.

HOBSON. Just wait a bit. I want to know if I'm taking this in aright.
(_Moves_ R. C.) I'm to be given a half-share in my own business on
condition I take no part in running it. Is that what you said?

WILLIE. That's it.

HOBSON. Well, I've heard of impudence before, but--

MAGGIE. It's all right, father.

HOBSON. But did you hear what he said?

MAGGIE. Yes. That's settled. Quite settled, father. (_Pushing him_.)
It's only the name we're arguing about. (_To_ WILL.) I won't have "late
Hobson's", Will.

HOBSON. I'm not dead, yet, my lad, and I'll show you I'm not.

MAGGIE. I think Hobson and Mossop is best.

HOBSON. His name on my sign-board!

WILLIE. The best I'll do is this: Mossop and Hobson.

MAGGIE. No.

WILLIE. Mossop and Hobson or it's Oldfield Road for us, Maggie.

MAGGIE. Very well. Mossop and Hobson.

(WILL _moves_ L.)

HOBSON. But--

(MAGGIE _moves up stage_ R.)

WILLIE (_opening door and looking through_). I'll make some alterations
in this shop, and all. I will so. (_He goes through door and returns at
once with a battered cane chair_.)

HOBSON. Alterations in my shop! (_Goes_ C.)

WILLIE. In mine. Look at that chair. How can you expect the high-class
customers to come and sit on a chair like that? Why, we'd only a cellar,
but they did sit on cretonne for their trying on.

HOBSON. Cretonne! It's pampering folk.

(MAGGIE _comes down stage_ R.)

WILLIE. Cretonne for a cellar, and morocco for this shop. Folk like
to be pampered. Pampering pays. (_He takes the chair out and returns
immediately_.) There'll be a carpet on that floor, too.

HOBSON. Carpet! Morocco! Young man, do you think this shop is in Saint
Ann's Square, Manchester?

WILLIE. Not yet. But it is going to be.

HOBSON. What does he mean? (_Appealing to heaven_.)

WILLIE. It's no farther from Chapel Street to Saint Ann's Square than it
is from Oldfield Road to Chapel Street. I've done one jump in a year
and if I wait a bit I'll do the other. (HOBSON _sits_ R. _of table_.)
Maggie, I reckon your father could do with a bit of fresh air after
this. I dare say it's come sudden to him. Suppose you walk with him
to Albert Prosser's office and get Albert to draw up the deed of
partnership.

HOBSON (_looking pathetically first at_ MAGGIE, _then at_ WILLIE,
_rising obediently_). I'll go and get my hat.

(_Exit_ HOBSON R.)

WILLIE. He's crushed-like, Maggie. I'm afraid I bore on him too hard.
(_Going_ R. C.)

MAGGIE. You needn't be.

WILLIE. I said such things to him, and they sounded as if I meant them,
too.

MAGGIE. Didn't you?

WILLIE. Did I? Yes ... I suppose I did. That's just the worst ... from
me to him. You told me to be strong and use the power that's come to me
through you, but he's the old master, and--

MAGGIE. And you're the new.

WILLIE. Master of Hobson's! It's an outrageous big idea. Did I sound
confident, Maggie?

MAGGIE. You did all right.

WILLIE (_sits_ R. _of table_). Eh, but I weren't by half so certain as I
sounded. Words came from my mouth that made me jump at my own boldness,
and when it came to facing you about the name, I tell you I fair
trembled in my shoes. I was carried away like, or I'd not have dared to
cross you, Maggie.

MAGGIE. Don't spoil it, Will. (_Moves to him_.) You're the man I've made
you and I'm proud.

WILLIE. Thy pride is not in same street, lass, with the pride I have in
you. And that reminds me. (_Rises, moves up and gets his hat_.) I've a
job to see to.

MAGGIE. What job?

WILLIE (_coming down_ L.). Oh--about the improvements.

MAGGIE. You'll not do owt without consulting me.

WILLIE. I'll do this, lass. (_Goes to and takes her hand_.)

MAGGIE. What are you doing? You leave my wedding ring alone. (_Wrenches
hand free_.)

WILLIE. You've worn a brass one long enough.

MAGGIE. I'll wear that ring for ever, Will.

WILLIE. I was for getting you a proper one, Maggie.

MAGGIE. I'm not preventing you. I'll wear your gold for show, but that
brass stays where you put it, Will, and if we get too rich and proud
we'll just sit down together quiet and take a long look at it, so as
we'll not forget the truth about ourselves ... Eh, lad! (_She touches
him affectionately_.)

WILL. Eh, lass! (_He kisses her_.)

(_Enter_ HOBSON R. _with his hat on_.)

MAGGIE. Ready, father. Come along to Albert's.

HOBSON (_meekly_). Yes, Maggie.

(MAGGIE _and_ HOBSON _cross below_ WILL _and go out_ L. WILL _comes
down with amazement, triumph and incredulity written on his face, and
attempts to express the inexpressible by saying_--)

WILL. Well, by gum! (_He turns to follow the others_.)


CURTAIN.





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